Frontiers of Psychotherapist Development

At the Bleeding Edge of Development, Reaping Benefit for Our Clients.

Tag: time

#3. Clinical Practice vs. Deliberate Practice: Why Your Years of Experience Doesn’t Get You Better


In times of change, learners inherit the Earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists. 

– American moral and social philosopher, Eric Hoffer (1973, p. 22)


Question: Would you hire this guy? Imagine an NBA basketball player decides that he doesn’t need training outside of competitions, because he has gotten so good at his game, and all he needs to do is continue play more game. If you own an NBA team and it’s drafting day, would you invest in this guy? Probably not. You won’t bet your money on the “Learned”, but you would do so for the “Learners”.

Many mental health professionals, counsellors, psychologists, psychiatrists, nurses, social workers, and marriage and family therapists alike, spend hundreds of hours clocking in our practicum years in order to be accredited and/or licensed to practice. Not to be confused, the word “practice” here means, well, work. It is not practice per say. It is the real deal. We end up falsely believing that since we have spend all that time in practice during our educational years, we are well equipped for the real work, that is, clinical practice. Thank goodness not everyone falls into this “Learned” group. Others whole heartedly believe that learning is lifelong. These are the “Learners”. But both “Learned” and “Learners” group have to deal with the same professional development issue: What keeps me at sharp at my skills in helping people?

It is crucial to make a distinction between work, and work that targets at getting us better at what we do. Therapists often confused that they worked hard to improve at their craft when they find themselves experiencing “flow” states during sessions. Clearly, when we are engaged in the therapeutic encounter, we strive to be fully present, attuning and relating to the emerging emotions and unfolding lived experience of this person who is in front of me seeking help and counsel. We get taken by this process, sharing a specific aim to ameliorate the person’s suffering. Continue reading

#2. The Most Important Weekly Appointment: The “MMI” Meetings

“Thus we are busy people just like all other busy people, rewarded for the rewards which are rewarded to busy people.” 

– Henri Nouwen, from The Way Of The Heart, p.22.

Top Secret

I struggle with this all the time. Yet It is crucial to schedule time for ourselves. We know how important this is, but often more pressing issues get the better of our attention. It’s so easy to be drawn to busy-ness. But if our development is prized, we must devote a portion of our time to it. If we left it to, “I’d catch up on it when I get the time,” or “I’d squeeze so time in-between my work,” chances are, you won’t have the time. (See Cal Newport’s take on deep and intense work.)

If left to my own device, without any structured automation or scheduling, I probably spend more than 90 percent of the time trying to catch up on demands from other people, leaving little time – and energy – to work on what really matters.

Here’s How:

In you weekly planner, schedule at least one hour of the week called “MMI” Meeting (Me-Myself-&-I). You don’t have to explain to others what this stand for. If you can, get away your usual office space (“where are you going,” asks the inqusitive colleague. You reply, “I got a meeting to attend.”). If you are in private practice, book yourself in at the least scheduled hour by your clients. This is your protected time towards self-development. It is what Moore-Edd calls your “time cocoon.”

In this weekly hour of “MMI”, you’d devote towards one of the following things:

– Read;

– Watch therapy videos of others;

– Review your recordings of your session;

– Reflect on your recent sessions;

– listen to a piece of music, with your full singular attention through to the end of the piece;

– Take a walk; and/or

– Take a nap (seriously).

What Not to do:

– Check your emails (in fact, do not leave your email application on);

– Play with your smartphone;

– think about how great having MMI meetings might be;

– have a guilt trip while you have a MMI meeting;

– See more clients.

I can’t have said it better than Wayne Muller, the author of a book, Sabbath:

“The busier we are, the more important we seem to ourselves, and, we imagine, to others. To be unavailable to our friends and family, to be unable to find time for the sunset (or even to know the sun at all), to whiz through our obligations without time for a mindful breath, this has become the model of a successful life.”


Add into  your weekly calendar a one hour “MMI” Meeting.

Once you have established your “MMI” Meeting in your schedule, resist the urge to over-ride this MMI hour. Busy-ness bedevils deep work and stunts growth. As Henri Nouwen alluded, busy people, reap the rewards of more busy-ness.