How and/or why did you become a therapist?
I became a therapist because I wanted to work in an area where I had some natural giftedness, an area I would find rewarding. I was always that kid in middle school and high school all my friends came to to talk about their problems. I tend to think in ways that are pretty different from most other people and they seem to greatly appreciate my perspectives and questions. Therapy is an area where I can, and do, make a difference with my one and only life.
What are the most rewarding aspects of being a therapist?
Helping people grow closer to one another, and get to know themselves better. Helping people overcome fear and take the risks that are most likely to get them what they want in life. Helping people figure out what is holding them back from being who they want to be, and how to move forward. Helping couples and families and individuals heal.
What’s unique or special in your background or approach to interpersonal relationships?
My wife and I met in 5th grade, got married at 19 — just after high school — and have been together for 30 years. Most relationships between people that young don’t last. Ours has, but it has been incredibly difficult work. We have struggled in so many ways, but we are closer now than we’ve ever been. So I know the struggle. I know what it takes to make progress, and what it demands of both partners. I understand how hard it is, how it sometimes feels so hopeless. And I have experienced first-hand the benefits that come from sticking it out. I am passionate about helping couples find one another again, and become friends again, and develop deep and lasting passion. When couple relationships get better, especially when children are involved, it can change a family tree for the positive — forever.
What are your favorite or most interesting interpersonal relationship tips/advice?
a. Healthy relationships are the product of two healthy individuals. The more each partner understands and deals with their own issues, the better the relationship will get.
b. “When you do what you did before, you will feel like you felt before.” Couples often come into therapy demoralized and isolated, having each retreated into their own separate corners. They have lost friendship, connection, and intimacy. When I ask them to describe what they were doing at the beginning of the relationship, when things were good, they say they were having awesome, deep conversations, doing a lot of fun things together, and spending a lot of time together. When I ask what they are doing now, they say they are doing very little of those things anymore. “When you do what you did before, you will feel like you felt before.”
c. Relationships may be complicated, but they are not mysterious. We have known for quite some time what differentiates relationships that thrive from relationships that fail. We really can show couples how to be happier and live more peacefully together.
What are some things about therapy that you want to increase public awareness about?
a. The longer a couple waits to get help, the more likely it is that one or both of them will just be too angry, or too exhausted, to do the hard work restoring relationships often requires. The average couple has been in distress about six years before they seek help. This often means a lot of deeply hurtful things have been said and done, and there are a lot of resentments and water under the bridge. Get help as soon as either partner notices a problem.
b. When one partner thinks the relationship is in trouble, the relationship is in trouble. If the other partner attempts to deny or minimize that concern, things are only going to get worse. It’s simply not the case that most couples can work out whatever their issues are on their own. A counselor, mentor, pastor, or close friend is often required to help them move forward.
c. Therapy is not for weak people. Only the strongest people come to therapy because it takes a lot of strength to admit you need help and to seek it out.
d. The vast majority of people who come to therapy fear they might be going crazy. This is literally almost never true.
What are some of the biggest mistakes a therapist or patient can make?
a. Taking too much responsibility for their client’s issues. A saying in our field is, “Never work harder than your clients.” A therapist can help, but the work is done by the couples and individuals needing help.
b. Therapists take too much blame when counseling doesn’t work, and too much credit when it does. We are helpers, nothing more.
c. Therapists too often don’t take care of themselves personally, and their own relationships suffer because of it. Self-care is critical.
d. No matter how bad a client’s issue seems, therapists must always believe the client has what it takes to overcome it and move forward.
e. Clients need to let their therapist do what they are trained to do. If they don’t trust their therapist, they need to find one they trust, and then listen closely to them.
f. Finding a good therapist can often take a while. If you don’t click with your first therapist, find another one. Keep searching until you feel comfortable with your therapist’s approach and confident in their skills.
David Flowers is a Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice in the Flint/Grand Blanc community in Michigan. He has focused his work on couples for the past twenty years, but also works with clients who are struggling with depression, anxiety, and other issues.
David teaches in the Master of Arts program in Counseling at Spring Arbor University and supervises post-graduate counselors during their required 3,000 hours of work under supervision. He is wrapping up the editing on his first book, The Search for Truth: Why You’re Often Dishonest With Yourself and How to Live Truthfully.