By 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.