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Being a More Mindful Clinician: Getting Back to Basics

Thursday, December 6th, 2012 in Practice Issues

by Lisa Ferentz, LCSW-C, DAPA

In case you haven’t noticed, there are an awful lot of psychotherapy modalities out there!  And many trainers are adamant that their treatment paradigms are the best, or the only ones that you need to use in your work with clients.  As a result, many clinicians are understandably anxious about which ones to learn and incorporate into their practices.  Even seasoned practitioners can feel pressured to learn “the latest” way of doing therapy.  Although I am firm in my belief that we always need to continue growing professionally, and that our clients will benefit from our willingness to stay open to new and creative ways of helping them in their healing journeys, sometimes a willingness to return to the basics can be the most effective way to work.

As I continue to use the precepts of mindfulness, I realize how elegant it is in its simplicity.  The idea of staying in the present moment is almost counter-intuitive to the eager clinician who is constantly looking for an “opening” to weigh in, offer words of wisdom, challenge a cognitive distortion, or move a client past a painful experience.  Certainly, our clients don’t like living in the “present moment!”  Yet, I recently re-visited a video showing the work of the amazing Carl Rogers, and his paradigm, “client-centered therapy,” and was so struck by how “in the moment” he was with his client.  There was nothing fancy about his work, he just stayed steadfastly “present,” and simultaneously non-judgmental and available.  The “unconditional positive regard” that he was famous for allowed the client to really be with her thoughts and feelings.  And as a result, she began moving to places of insight, self-awareness, self-acceptance and compassion.  A process that is synonymous with what is now called “mindful awareness.”

Given what we now know about the brain, the mind-body connection, and the power of expressive therapies, there certainly is a real place for new paradigms in our professional studies.  However, let’s not forget the basics, including genuinely and authentically being in the present moment with our clients, wherever they are in their process.  Remember the power of attunement, a non-judgmental relationship, and the ability to do reflective listening, as well as the healing benefits of just holding “safe space” with and for a client.  The longer I do this work, the more I realize that no one is re-inventing the wheel.  The things that work best are probably the things that have always worked best, and the core concepts of mindfulness give us another opportunity to re-visit them and integrate them in our practices.

How do you practice ‘mindfulness’ with your clients?



2 Responses to “Being a More Mindful Clinician: Getting Back to Basics”

  1. Thank you so much, Lisa, for your words of wisdom. I am presently feeling overwhelmed with learning something new to add to my present skills. Even tho this new skill could be useful, I’m second-guessing my choice and just want to get back to what I know and trust. As usual, you’re the best and do a great job of grounding us in our efforts to help heal.

    • lisaferentz says:

      Thanks for taking the time to respond, Susan. I relate to that pressure of always having to integrate something new, and I appreciate your validating the idea that we can and should trust our inner wisdom about when to keep it simple!

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