Becoming A Psychotherapist

  • What makes an Competent Psychotherapist ?
  • How does one develop a sense of Professional Identity?

Both as a past trainee, a Psychotherapist and Trainer of Psychotherapists  I have  frequently asked myself the above questions.

In writing this  blog, I have looked at the whole process from Novice to seasoned Practitioner. I have often felt like a Pilot in a helicopter rising above the”Maze” and seeing the roots from beginning to end, roots which are comprised of twists and turns, sometimes knotted and gnarled but eventually emerging into open land.

As a Trainee myself in the 1980s, I can remember what it was like to enter the Maze for the first time, to get lost, and to go down false trail until eventually discovering daylight. Certainly it was a personal journey of frustrations, joys and excitements. It was life changing and brought me to some false dawns and sunsets, on the road to clear vision and fulfilment.

Something that figures from me ,is that there ,wasn’t a definitive end, but a series of endings and beginnings which led me to where I am today, an experienced Therapist, Trainer, Supervisor and overall director of this well respected Institute.

Whilst travelling this road, I have learned to Saviour my triumphs and look forward to evolving challenges, frustrations and satisfactions that lie ahead. One truth, however, that I have recognised is that more of the road I travel the less I seem to know.!! There are many unexpected openings that have to be dealt with.

What then makes a Competent Psychotherapist?

There are many qualities that make for a successful Psychotherapist, however I believe, that the most important is having an Awareness of oneself- and the insight to own those positive qualities ,and the courage take ownership of ones own darker side.

It is Courage and Compassion that you need ,to visit these dark, and often untouched places in your personality. A willingness to learn, change and finally accept that part of yourself.

You must have the willingness to meet yourself and to integrate the aspects of yourself ,that will be a prime importance in this searching and understanding of the self.

It is only then that you will really be able to guide others to where they need to go in the service of healing and Personal growth.

As a Psychotherapy Trainer I expect my Trainees to develop a robustness ,which will mean that they can face not only their own internal demons, but the ogres which are part of their clients own struggles, and which they will present to us in the therapy. We must learn to deal with our “Puppet masters” of the past ,and we will need to reach out, with the help of others, to cut the strings that bind us to the past -in order to take control of our own destiny.

Only if we achieve the above will will be able to help our clients, otherwise we will be like the Porter on the railway station-directing the tired traveller onto the familiar train, over and over again- onto the well worn route they have so often travelled before.

One major tip here in achieving that robustness is to know that you will have to dig deep into your own personal reserves and trust in the process, something I personally have found hard on occasions within my own therapy journey. In fact sometimes it seemed like an impossible task to achieve, mainly because I had not been able to trust myself. I recognise that I did not trust myself and therefore how could I trust another? Indeed it was only by learning that others had trusted me that I found a way to understand, perhaps for the first time, my own vulnerabilities and fragility.

It was through other people’s trust in me and I was able to believe in myself ,and find the courage, to go the extra mile that was needed to go within the therapeutic process.

There are of course many essential qualities that make a successful psychotherapist but the most significant, along with the ability to take Risks,–I believe is the ability to Persevere, to continue when every part of yourself is telling you to continue in your familiar, predictable ways.

These qualities will be needed in order to become a successful psychotherapist. -It is often a risky business developing a sense of professional identity, finding out what the boundaries are in order to establish clear guidelines in our work.

Developing a healthy professional identity is imperative to your personal development as a psychotherapist. This professional identity comes from first discovering the self with a new, without this you will not develop the confidence needed to make a good therapist.

The Trainees Professional role is shaped by many features within the Training process.

Indeed over the period of training you will need to be committed and motivated to achieve your goals,- just as you will need to be open to learning and debate. -You will need to learn the skills of Psychotherapy through the structure, practice, and theory. You will need to allow yourself to be open and truthful both to yourself and to others, and not lose sight of yourself through the models and techniques.

The use of the Self alongside the theoretical models will give you the understanding, and abilities ,to discover the many facets of the human condition.

Certainly we should not forget that every new development in Psychotherapy, Theory and Methodology ,will offer the practitioner a fresh insight into the ways of communicating with the people we are trying to help, and understand.- Therefore I believe that it is the duty of any therapist to utilise new theoretical models in the service of the client.

To my mind, it is where theory and practice meet, bringing together the essence of the human encounter.

Bob Cooke

Bob Cooke

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Bob Cooke is Psychotherapist, Trainer, Consultant and Supervisor with an international reputation.  In 1987 he founded the Manchester Institute for Psychotherapy (to the present day), of which he is the director. He is also responsible for the Institute’s training programme and oversees trainees from first year to full clinical membership of the UKCP.

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