Defining Your Clinical Approach

What to consider when determining the type of therapy you want to practice

It can feel overwhelming to figure out what form of therapy to practice as a clinician.  It reflects our deeper views about human nature and the most effective ways to help people change.  These are significant decisions, and we are betting our careers on those decisions.  While it can feel daunting, the journey of figuring those things out can also be fun and exciting.  Here are some things to consider during that discernment process.

1) Be A Scientist

Being an associate usually allows some leniency at many workplaces to try different things and experiment. Take every opportunity you can to try a new model of therapy or introduce some new techniques with clients.  Pick a therapy that you initially resonate with, then study it, practice it and reflect on it with a supervisor.  We will have to run some experiments to see what we find.  It's exciting to try new things and it's okay to change our minds later.  

2) Do Your Homework

Taking the time to read, watch videos, attend trainings and review research articles is essential to defining your therapeutic approach.  We don't want to practice models of therapy that sound like a good idea, we want to see that they have been proven as a good idea.  Here is one place to start looking for various evidence based practices.

3) Consider Your Clients

Thinking about the populations of clients we want to work with can help define the type of therapy we will practice.  What are the demographics and problem areas of those I work with or want to work with in the future?  (e.g. Do I want to work with people from marginalized communities?  Do I want to work with clients diagnosed with PTSD?)  Answers to these types of questions can help us narrow our search and inform further research.  We want to ensure that the type of therapy we are learning is proven to be effective for the populations we care about.

4) Search Within Yourself

It is important to spend some time in self reflection and asking ourselves some hard questions.  How do I view the nature of people and what causes challenges with their mental health?  What do I think gives people the greatest ability to change and reach their goals?  What are my core values when it comes to client-centered work and what models of therapy give me the best capactiy to live out those values?  What types of therapies resonate with me at an intellectual and emotional level when I learn about or practice them?  If I'm not sure about those answers, what process to I need to start to gain more clarity?