Terrible Gifts in Therapy

“Pray for one humiliation a day,” says Franciscan Friar Richard Rohr. “And watch your inner reaction to it.” [1]


This is not some Catholic self-flagellating, guilt inducing exercise. Rather, if we see with fresh eyes, every moment of difficulty that we face in a session with you client, presents a gift to you.

These moments are terrible gifts, if we open yourself to deep learning—this sense of moving aside the Ego, and leaning forward towards healing for your client, and for you.

It is terrible because we will feel uncomfortable. The Ego will be bruised, our sense of self will be shaken.

But it is a gift because it has the powerful potential to help us move out of our comfort zone and into our learning zone.[2]


Every difficult moment in therapy is a gift, only if you open yourself to this moment.


But these difficult moments depend entirely on our response. If we reacted from the Ego, a difficult moment is a curse. If we responded humanely to our client and to ourselves, a difficult moment will bless you.

After all, some burdens are a blessing, and some blessings are a burden.

The next time you are faced with a difficult moment in therapy, do not ask, “Why is this horrible situation happening to me?” Instead, go deeper and ask yourself, “What is this difficult moment teaching me?”

Then do the following:

1. Slow: Make haste slowly; slow down your speech (your heart will follow);

2. Ego: Move the ego aside;

3. Lean in: Move towards your client. And stay right there with the other.

That’s how we grow.


p/s: I love to hear in the comments below what sorts of challenges you face in your clinical practice.

Best regards,





[1] Listen to the podcast On Being: Krista Tippett interviews Fr Richard Rohr . Here’s the segment about “one good humiliation a day.”

MS. TIPPETT: [laughs] “I have prayed for years for one good humiliation a day, and then I must watch my reaction to it,” which sounds so uncomfortable. There’s nothing in me that wants to pray for one good humiliation a day.

FR. ROHR: No, and there isn’t in me either. I just said that to that group of millennials two weeks ago. Some years ago, I started recognizing that I was getting an awful lot of adulation and praise and some people treating me far more importantly than I deserved. And I realized I was growing used to it, that the ego just loves all of this admiration and projection. And a lot of it was projection. And I didn’t want fame and well-knownness and guru status to totally destroy me, and so for me, this became a necessity, that I had to watch how do I react to not getting my way, to people not agreeing with me, to people not admiring me — and there’s plenty of them — and that I actually needed that. And so I do, I still, I ask God for one good humiliation a day, and I usually get it, one hate letter or whatever it might be. [laughs] And then what I have to do, Krista, is I have to watch my reaction to it. And I’ve got to be honest with you, my inner reaction — I’m not proud to tell you — is defensive, is, “That’s not true. You don’t understand me.” I can just see how well-defended my ego is. And of course, even your critics — and I have plenty of them — at least 10 to 20 percent of what they’re saying is usually true.
[2] Chow, D. (2017). The practice and the practical: Pushing your clinical performance to the next level. Prescott, David S [Ed]; Maeschalck, Cynthia L [Ed]; Miller, Scott D [Ed] (2017) Feedback-informed treatment in clinical practice: Reaching for excellence (pp 323-355) x, 368 pp Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association; US, 323-355.

Photo by Ben White