In this, my second blog on the ACA website, I want to talk a bit about case consultation. I know we all have heard from legal counsel that consultation is necessary to support yourself should a lawsuit happen. But it is always surprising to me how many counselors do not engage in consultation.
I know we all get busy and tired. I myself often times want the time I am not engaged in counseling to be completely unrelated to counseling. And I know it takes time and energy to prepare case presentations, not to mention the embarrassment when a fellow counselor points out something we should have seen. But that is one of the main reasons to consult. In my experience, seasoned therapists don't engage in consultation because they feel it is unnecessary, or because they often feel like a supervisor rather than a colleague. Or perhaps our egos are more fragile than we would like to admit.
I would challenge those who experience the supervisor dynamic to bring that up as part of the consultation. Pehaps there is a knowledge and/or experience gap, but it can also mean that the seasoned therapist is being directive " I know so much more than the others". We don't want to admit it but, just as we sometimes go to a conference and realize halfway through that we haven't learned anything, we sometimes can make the conference valuable by asking the right questions. But if instead we 'check out' we don't get the opportunity to learn.
So it has been with my experiences with case consultation. I am often impressed with the fluency fresh therapists, recently educated, show with CBT, DBT or many of the other newer manualized intervention/treatment modalities. And the fresh perspective, often presented with enthusiasm, can not just give us seasoned therapists a new view of an issue, it can rejuvenate our sometimes jaded attitude. I look forward to hearing others perspectives on this.
In fact, this blog, and the others on the web site could serve as a consultation group. So if you agree or disagree with my premise, or if you have more to add, we can make this a sort of virtual consultation group. I am never too old to learn and grow. And even though I may be certain about some issue, your input can help me grow. I would suggest that discussion of specific client's issues would be inappropriate for so public a forum, but more general client issues, or issues about our own professional lives would be very useful to discuss here. Even though we may enter the counseling office with the client alone, in another way we are all in there together. Lets share our wisdom.
Steve Bryson is a nurse and counselor in private practice in Whitefish, Montana. He works with adolescents and adults, couples and families and has a special interest in eating disorders.