What Therapists Want

What Therapists Want

It’s Certainly Not Money or Fame!

By Barry L. Duncan

May/June 2011

It’s no secret to anybody in our field that this is a tough time to be a therapist. In public agencies, we’re underpaid, overworked, and held to unattainable “productivity standards” (24 to 28 client hours a week; 30 to 34 scheduled appointment hours to make up for cancellations and no-shows). We’re subjected to a continual onslaught of paperwork to secure payments, and frequently face cutbacks and layoff threats. While some of us still thrive in private practice, most of us make far less than we did during the “golden age” of fee-for-service insurance reimbursement. Furthermore, the nature of clinical work often is frustrating, even anxiety-provoking, exposing us to high levels of human suffering.

Adding insult to injury, the culture at large doesn’t seem to admire therapists particularly, or understand what we do. This point is clear if you take a moment to think about the portrayals of therapists by Dr. Marvin Monroe of The Simpsons or Jack Nicholson in Anger Management or Barbra Streisand in Meet the Fockers. Sure, good examples of competent clinicians exist, but they’re far outweighed by those that cast us as self-indulgent crackpots endlessly mouthing psychobabble. So, why would anybody choose to enter such a field?

To be sure, most of us didn’t choose this work because we thought we’d acquire the lifestyles of the rich and famous—we knew at the outset that devoting our lives to trying to assuage human misery…

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