When therapists of a certain age recall their own training, they may conjure up images of revered clinicians striding into their sessions and making seemingly magical interventions with the most challenging of clients. As young trainees, often mind-boggled by the wizardry they’d just witnessed, they’d try valiantly to emulate those skills for years to come. It was an exhilarating time, but also, I hear, a pretty autocratic one. Top-down teaching was the name of the game.
It’s a different world now. From what I can see, most therapists today view the teaching relationship as fairly egalitarian and co-constructed, one in which trainees take a substantive role in their own learning process. The supervisor acts more as mentor than guru, supporting the therapist-in-training in gathering skills, experience, and fresh approaches to sometimes daunting clinical situations. In this issue of the magazine, we’re exploring this evolving world of training, not just how both parties are reshaping their roles, but also the challenges many therapists face in today’s training environment—and what young clinicians need to thrive and learn within it.
The truth is, supervision is harder to come by these days. For a number of reasons that we explore in these pages, some trainees don’t have access to regular supervision, while others say they entered private practice without anyone ever having seen them work with a client—at least not in real-time. How can we, as a field, begin to close this troubling gap?
Change is brewing on several fronts. We’re in the midst of a major shift in our understanding of just what trainees need to know in order to be an effective therapist in today’s world. We offer a sampling of these new approaches, including getting face-to-face with your clients’ wider communities to help them access healing resources, and working deeply with multigenerational trauma across races and cultures. We also explore the need to train therapists to integrate relational neuroscience into their work, and ways to cultivate humility and flexibility given clients’ changing needs.
There’s excitement in the air, and also a lot of work to do. Both, I suspect, are going to generate more creative approaches to training and supervision, as well as require some very active listening. At some point, every one of us was the next generation of therapists, being shaped by the salient ideas of the time. What are those ideas now? And what do our newer colleagues say they need from us to become the therapists they want to be?
Editor in Chief
Livia Kent, MFA, is the editor in chief of Psychotherapy Networker. She worked for 10 years with Rich Simon as managing editor of Psychotherapy Networker, and taught writing at American University as well as for various programs around the country. As a bibliotherapist, she’s facilitated therapy groups in Washington, DC-area schools and in the DC prison system. In 2020, she was named one of Folio Magazine’s Top Women in Media “Change-Makers.” She’s the recipient of Roux Magazine‘s Editor’s Choice Award, The Ledge Magazine‘s National Fiction Award, and American University’s Myra Sklarew Award for Original Novel.