We psychotherapists, especially us more seasoned ones, are hampered in our efforts to grow our practices by forces other than our neuroses. Passivity was drilled into our professional identities by absorbing the central, now outdated, theories of psychotherapeutic technique. This passivity has also invaded our business practices.
In the spirit of full disclosure, despite “growing up” professionally when psychoanalysis was the pinnacle of psychotherapeutic approaches, I am not temperamentally disposed to it. Never was, really. But I tried my best – graduating from the Dallas Psychoanalytic Institute after ten years of hard work, practicing the art as a part of my Dallas private practice, and finally giving it up completely with my move to Chicago. I even tried a bit here, joining the faculty of the Institute of Psychoanalysis, Chicago until it became clear that I did not fit. The degree of obsessional intellectualization in all of psychoanalysis is not my cup of tea.
There have been voices within the field that have addressed this issue. Allen Wheelis in How People Change (1973), wrote the following:
“The most common illusion of patients and, strangely, even of experienced therapists, is that insight produces change; and the most common disappointment of therapy is that it does not. Insight is instrumental to change, often an essential part of the process, but does not directly achieve it. The most comprehensive and penetrating interpretation – true, relevant, well expressed, perfectly timed – may lie inert in the patient’s mind; for he may always, if he be so inclined, say, ‘Yes, but it doesn’t help.’ If a therapist takes the position, as many do, that a correct interpretation is one that gets results, that the getting of results is an essential criterion for the correctness of an interpretation, he will be driven to more and more remote reconstructions of childhood events, will move further and further from present reality, responding always to the patient’s, “Yes, but why?” with further reachings for more distant antecedents. The patient will be saying, in effect, “Yes, but what are you going to do about it?” and the therapist, instead of saying, as he should, “What are YOU going to do about it?” responds according to his professional overestimate of the efficacy of insight by struggling toward some ever more basic formulation. Some patients don’t want to change, and when a therapist takes on the task of changing such a one he assumes a contest which the patient always wins. The magic of insight, of unconscious psychodynamics, proves no magic at all; the most marvelous interpretation falls useless – like a gold spoon from the hand of a petulant child who doesn’t want his spinach.”
Wheelis finally provides the magic ingredient for change: the exercise of will. Surely we all know that the hope of “build-it-and-they-will-come” approach to growing a business does not work. Starting and growing a psychiatric or psychotherapy practice takes a lot of hard work. We have to provide excellent service and let the world know that we do. Some of us have managed to fight through the engrained passivity, some haven’t.
Have YOU? Tell us how you market your business. How have you overcome the resistances to self-promotion. Please leave your feedback via the “Leave a Comment” link at the top of this article.