Including the Self-of-the-Therapist in Clinical Training

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Abstract

Interpersonal and intrapersonal qualities of the therapist are intimately related to therapeutic alliance and therapeutic outcome. Most training programs pay close attention to how to conduct couple therapy and focus less on the therapist who is doing it. The lack of emphasis on the emotional development of the therapists in graduate programs comes from the traditional resistance to the merging of personal and professional growth strategies. This article presents the results from a qualitative case study exploring pedagogical techniques by which 25 alumni from a Family and Couple Emphasis in an APA clinical psychology doctoral program effectively learn methods of differentiation-based couple therapy, and the positive impacts of differentiation theory and skills on their personal and professional growth. By learning concepts and strategies central to differentiation-based couple therapy, course alumni discovered techniques for tapping into what they considered to be their “best” selves. The alumni reported having learned (a) how to be constructive in getting clients to confront themselves; (b) how to engage effectively in their own self-scrutiny and the courage to resolve their issues; (c) how to become their own sources of “self-soothing”; and (d) how to shift to a strengths-based rather than a deficits-based approach to guide personal and client growth. Alumni further identified specific teaching tactics in the classroom that were particularly effective in fostering these skills, including group activities and individual exercises designed to encourage integration of personal and professional development. The process of informed consent and confidentiality is also discussed.

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