Many of us first begin to imagine ourselves becoming a psychotherapist while discussing our life and our difficulties with our own therapist. Receiving the benefits of therapy, we think, “I would like to offer this kind of help to others.” Or, we have a wish to understand the “secrets” of how to help others in a meaningful way. Looking up to our therapist and feeling grateful, it seems he or she has powers we could only dream of. Any yet…the therapist is simply human, right? We might ask, “Can’t I, too, learn to listen and speak in ways that benefit others?” The first and second answers to the question, “How can I become a therapist?” are already clear.
First, we need to have our own therapy so that we can be objective when listening to others.
Second, we need to understand that all it takes to become a therapist is a willingness to be fully human, to experience all of our thoughts and emotions with equanimity during sessions with our patients and everywhere else, too.
The third step in becoming a psychotherapist is learning skillful methods. The growing edge of learning to become a therapist is the development of skills and the practicing of various methods of using our own humanity to benefit others whose in-born nature may be blocked, over-expressed, or misdirected.
The fourth step is that we must cultivate patience. Patience is not only a virtue, it is an essential quality in the practice of psychotherapy. We must not pressure anyone to move faster, learn more, or feel better in any way before they become naturally ready for change. Patience rests in our understanding that no matter how much a person is suffering, often they seem to choose more suffering over change.
Change is very difficult. It requires extensive exploration and continuous support. Change requires us to accept that remaining the same is an option. It is interesting that the permission to remain the same is often the very thing people need to receive in order to overcome fear and make the changes that improve their lives. We can think about change as an organic process as well. We plant the seeds of growth by offering the space, time and attention of the therapy session. For a while, it seems like nothing is happening. But by “watering” the situation weekly with our attention and keeping the emotional temperature of the experience optimal, it is possible to see the shoots of growth emerge from the soil of the therapeutic relationship. This occurs because we have combined the elements – time, space and attention — that promote growth and help people change the patterns in their lives that cause suffering. The fifth step in becoming a psychotherapist is to join a community of like-minded souls. Others who share this life path will support and challenge you and become resources as you near your goal and eventually take your seat as a human primed to benefit others emotionally and psychologically, no matter their condition and because you have worked on yours.
At ACAP, at the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis (BGSP – www.bgsp.edu), and at the Center for Modern Psychoanalytic Studies (CMPS – www.cmps.edu), there are many opportunities to explore the pathways to becoming a psychotherapist, to feel supported, and to understand the dynamics of human potential. Join us now and begin to fulfill your dream of becoming a psychotherapist today.