I had to cancel some client sessions recently due to illness and whenever this happens – thankfully rarely – it brings the dilemma of how much to tell. I kept details to a minimum but noticed a part of me anxious to share much more. On pausing and making space for that urge, I found the source – a need for these clients to know that I hadn’t cancelled their sessions lightly.
Acting as a counterbalance was my core psychodynamic training that instilled ways of working that I find remain deeply rooted, including avoiding any self-disclosure, years after adopting a more integrative way of working.
But to say that avoiding self-disclosure is always best practice misses the complexity of the issue. In her article, Me, undefended, Dr Cordelia Galgut describes reaching a ‘shifting point’ in her professional journey where she wondered if she was withholding some of herself from clients by never self-disclosing.
Not everyone is in a position to – or wants to – take a pause from work while undergoing treatment for an ongoing health condition. But how is it for a client when they are made aware of their therapist’s vulnerability, humanity and fragility? In the article, Cordelia discusses how she told clients she was undergoing medical treatment, then gave them the option of being told why – all but one opted to find out more. She describes how this deepened those relationships and, as a result, careful self-disclosure about life events such as bereavement has become part of her ‘way of being’ as a therapist.
"The mental health crisis among NHS frontline staff is not just a crisis for the workforce and an appalling situation for the individuals – it affects us all"
That ‘way of being’ is an ever-evolving process, and one of the joys of this work. I’m not the same therapist I was 10 years ago and am curious about where this journey takes me next - couples counselling? Supervision? In this issue, we have a section focused on further training, including Anne Power in Opening up to new learning on how embarking on a new training after a 20-year career changed her personally as well as professionally, and Emma Redfern on the pros and cons of integrating a new modality or completely transitioning to a new way of working in Professional transitioning.
And of course, don’t miss our ‘Big issue’ report on the mental health crisis among NHS frontline staff. The main point that struck home for me from this timely and important piece by journalist Ellie Broughton is that this is not just a crisis for the workforce and an appalling situation for the individuals – it affects us all. At its most basic level, if we don’t look after our carers they can’t care for us, and when they burn out mistakes are made.
As ever, your feedback on any of the content of this issue is gratefully received via email.
Sally Brown Editor