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Clinical Wisdom: Who Needs It?

Treating the Anxious ClientBy Rich Simon Last November, we put together a webcast series on clinical wisdom, featuring what we considered to be some of the wisest people in the fields of psychology and psychotherapy. Those interviewed included a Nobel laureate, a renowned Buddhist teacher and therapist, a revered pioneer in mind-body psychotherapy, a famous therapist–novelist, and the field’s foremost environmental activist. We were convinced it would have universal appeal. How could people resist it?

Easily, as it turned out. To our surprise, we had the lowest registration for that series of any we’ve ever produced, though the actual webcast interviews elicited some of the most enthralled and inspired audience responses we’ve ever received. So why would such a remarkable series of conversations—focused on essential questions, not only for therapy, but for life—draw forth a collective yawn and shrug from so many potential attendees?

Part of the answer may be the current direction of therapy itself. The pioneers in our field—Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Virginia Satir, Fritz Perls, Salvador Minuchin, and others—all recognized that they were providing something more than just technique. They knew that to truly call themselves therapists, they needed genuine insight into what it means to be human. But does today’s short-term, empirically supported, manualized, and medicalized psychotherapy really require its practitioners to be wise? Is wisdom even desirable? Maybe in today’s professional climate, with all our referral sources to cultivate, website traffic data to crunch, and marketing plans to constantly revise, it just isn’t cost effective to be wise.

Still, many of us remain captivated by wisdom’s appeal. Life seems too absurd without at least the possibility that we can find wisdom somewhere from somebody when we really need it. You never can tell when a sage might turn up—maybe it’ll be a calm and kindly insurance man after a frozen pipe has flooded your house, or a friend who talks you out of impulsively trying to get back at someone who’s wounded you, or a nurse in an E.R. who comforts you in the face of a terrifying medical crisis.

Perhaps there are still therapists out there—maybe you—who understand and practice the ideal that whatever the clinical model, it’s your capacity for insight, compassion, reflection, and full presence that’s the real source of healing. Now, that’s wisdom.

If you missed out on our Wisdom webcast series the first time, here’s your second chance! For a limited time only, “6 Faces of Wisdom: Pathways to Becoming a Better Therapist” is available as an intensive series offering immediate on-demand access to all six sessions. You’ll learn from some of psychotherapy’s wisest figures what exactly clinical wisdom is and how to recognize, cultivate, and nurture it.

Read our March/April issue, Clinical Wisdom: Who Needs It?. When you’re done reading, click here to earn 2 CEs by taking the online magazine quiz.

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2 Responses to Clinical Wisdom: Who Needs It?

  1. I registered for this workshop but was unable to attend. Can I somehow access a recording of the event?

  2. Glen A Bushers, MSW, ASW, LPHA says:

    Some years ago I was posed with a perplexing question- “What is the difference between wisedom & knowledge?”. There were several attendees that made honest efforts to provide an answer. They were in some ways correct yet not quite complete. The answer given makes more sense to me now than then in part due to the time that has past. Knowledge is what we learn as in school. We study different approaches, methods, & strategies about how to provide the best treatment for the issue in front of us. The problem with knowledge is it may give us the how & what to do, but it lacks the one ingredient wisedom provides-When. Wisedom includes all the knowledge about the how & what to do but also gives us understanding about the timing necessary to be effective. In short recognizing “When” is perhaps more important than all the knowledge gained from reading & studying. Training in the ability to flow with the moment is what teaches us whento apply the how & what of all we know. Today I would add that wisedopm is also a byproduct of experience. Witout experience timing becomes more acute thus leading to better outcomes.
    Where was I at when this small, but very large piece of understanding was imparted? In 1982 I tested in front of 5 Tae Kwon Do masters. To this day I will never forget the question & answer provided by Master Byong Yu. It has served me well in the mental health/therapy world where undrstanding that methods, techniques, interventions, theories, ect… work some of the time, but when you begin to master the art of timing what you do in sessions becomes even more effective.
    The problem we all face in a time of short, brief, time limited health care is wisdom is no longer considered what is needed. If you become really good with a particular brand of therapy all you need to know is how that intervention can be sized to fit the foot of all who may come to you for treatment.
    Had to respond to this as it struck a nerve.

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