Monday 27 April 2015

Just Because We're Therapists Doesn't Mean to Say We're Sorted

“As practitioners we offer our patients guidance, support and encouragement - it seems a good idea to offer it to ourselves” Isobel Cosgrove, Acupuncturist, BAcC Member and Supervision Trainer

I have never felt so alone as I did the day I finished my training and qualified as an Acupuncturist. As I set out on my career, working in solo, I no longer had my tutors at hand for mentoring nor my peers to bounce ideas off or to share uncertainties with. All I had were my own two feet - and a short amount of time to learn to stand on them.

Back then, patients were few and far between - and why should I assume it would be any different? I'd been qualified for all of five minutes so how could I possibly expect to have a queue outside my treatment room door from day one? 

Any seasoned businessman will tell you that if you can survive the first three years of any new start up, then chances are you're on to a winner. However, that time can be filled with confidence wobbles, fear of failure, escalating outgoings and a pittance for an income - tough times indeed. And because we're therapists, people seem to assume that we're able to cope far better than most because we've got a handle on everything, we don't get stressed or anxious and  - because we're 'sorted', right?

Not right! Yes, we're therapists - but we're also human. We too get it wrong sometimes, lack confidence and can struggle as much as the next person. But I have found there to be in some therapists a reluctance to ask for help, either because of arrogance, fear of appearing to lack skill or knowledge, or an unwillingness to continue their personal and professional development.

As therapists, we owe it to ourselves as well as to our patients to look after ourselves properly (if we don't do it, who will?), to further our knowledge and hone our skills, to be able to receive as well as to give and above all to maintain a sense of humility. After all, to be invited by our patients to join them on their journey of self-discovery and self-healing is indeed a privilege. We ourselves are not the healers - our job is to facilitate, to open doors so that our patients can consider the options available to them in their own time; ours is not to lead the way but to stand just behind in order to offer a steadying hand if and when necessary.

As an Acupuncture therapist, I practice what I preach. I do look after myself - very well actually, but this hasn't always been the case (I learned my lesson the hard way!). I ring fence several hours in every week and set these aside as 'Me Time' - yoga, pilates, massage, my own acupuncture treatment, reading and most importantly, supervision and mentoring.

However, in my efforts to take better care of myself I have encountered a number of therapists offering different treatments, several of whom I have had issues with of some kind or another. I admit that many of the issues were my own, but there were definitely some which were down to bad practice and people skills on the therapist's part. These were people who I assumed, or at least hoped were 'sorted' - in reality, some of them would have really benefited from working on themselves before working with their patients.