In Praise of the Older Therapist


In Praise of the Older Therapist

Probing the Heart of Clinical Wisdom

By Walter Lowe

January/February 2005


Even in the field of therapy--where emotional maturity and wisdom supposedly count for something--the enthusiasm, bravado, and pure physical energy of youth sometimes trump the sobriety, scepticism, caution, and, well, fatigue afflicting those of us who'll never see 40--or 50, or 60, or even 70--again. Sometimes, brash young Turks instinctively do brilliant therapy that their older teachers and mentors couldn't or wouldn't dare to do, even after four cups of coffee and two shots of ginseng extract. n That said, there's nothing like experience--the slow, steady accretion of millions of new neural connections--for teaching us how to do something well, and that can only come with time and age. When I first entered a master's program in marriage and family therapy, it seemed hardly possible that I'd ever master the sheer amount of knowledge I needed to be a competent therapist, let alone acquire the inner confidence and authority to use it well. Early in that year, I asked one of my professors, who seemed to carry his knowledge and wisdom with effortless ease, what the learning curve was like in becoming a therapist. What I really wanted to know, but didn't ask outright, was when, if ever, I could expect to embody the kind of expertise and calm assurance he demonstrated.

He looked at me kindly and said, "In your first 25 hours of face-to face, you develop your basic skills. By 100 hours, you've begun to develop

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