Such a simply put word that holds an incredible depth of meaning. When I first began graduate school, consultation was disguised within a number of supervisors we became paired up with. Looking back, it is wild that more of them did not belly laugh at the clumsy way us newbies meandered about. Wide-eyed, brand-new, counselors-in-training eager to learn the lingo and take on the world.
I’m belly laughing now looking back. The innocence was endearing.
As we counselors-in-training found our sea legs, the program ever-so gently backed off the number of required supervisors. While we were completing our internships, we only had one.
And thank GOD for my one supervisor.
You see, my supervisor in graduate school was a rare ray of sunshine that showed me the pure magic that was working with kiddos in a therapeutic setting. Prior to beginning any clinical work, I had envisioned myself sitting in a stereotypical, oversized therapist chair with clients sitting across from me. The room was orderly and predictable. Tissues casually placed on the coffee table that separated us.
Oh man, I cannot imagine how dull my therapy experiences would be without my first supervisor.
She introduced me to the magic that are children’s worlds and experiences. She compassionately guided me through the Narnia-closet into ways of creating safe spaces and utilizing play as a rich way of communicating with youngsters. She taught me that a therapeutic space could be anywhere and everywhere. That kiddos are wickedly attune to their worlds, their traumas, and the capacity for healing. I loved every single second of my practicum and internships, largely due to the out-of-this-world consultation my supervisor consistently offered. To this day, I have a cup on my desk that holds color pencils and markers that has GP across it. My simple reminder that healing can be colorful and unique to each and every person.
It was quite unnerving after graduation.
Largely because you are swiftly kicked out of the safe and secure consultation nest you had grown very comfortable in.
After a world-wind time period chalk-full of celebrations, diplomas, and cap and gown pictures, you are suddenly all on your own. I somehow found my way into a mental health agency, fueled up by the extra sleep and sense of accomplishment. That experience was intense, brutal, and quick as I discovered many of my own needs could not be met within community-based mental health. Judge if you must, but know I am grateful for the experience I gathered, and for the friendships gained along the way.
Looking back, I would have to say that finding your “therapeutic tribe” is an absolute MUST for one’s sanity, professionalism, ethical attunement, and happiness within this field.
After personally experiencing the act of practicing therapy with and without a therapeutic tribe, I would have to say that I am a better and more comprehensive clinician because of them. My number one, ride or die, peanut butter to my jelly is my clinical director. The magical human who paid witness to my potential and hired me on to work within the practice she cultivated and nurtured with her bare hands.
Needless to say, I respect the hell out of her.
Janeen has created such an open and inviting workspace, and it is second nature to consult with one another. When I have my newb moments (I am sure all of us therapists do from time to time) she has never once made me feel silly or shamed. Consultation is a vibrantly celebrated engagement of therapeutic minds that build off of one another’s’ strengths. Over time, this therapeutic tribe has grown, and I’ve got to tell you, the consultation is absolutely brilliant. They create a space, much like the cherished space my OG supervisor created, that nourishes you where you are depleted. Burnout is validated and is looked upon with compassion. Points of stuckness are approached vivaciously. Laughter is abundant, shoulders to lean on are constant, and cake is a known, effective stress-reliever.
Consultation is a MUST for effective, ethical, comprehensive, and happy clinicians. Practicing as a therapist in this current world is hard, folks. It’s filled to the brim with unknowns, novel situations, and scary moments. Transference is a completely real and realistic thing, due to us experiencing the same trauma as our clients, concurrently. Consultation with our “therapeutic tribe” helps hold ourselves accountable, highlights our own need to be mindful of our own mental well-being, and provides a safe space to say “This is hard and I am tired.”
So, cheers to the therapeutic tribes out there. You all are very deeply cherished and appreciated.