How and/or why did you become a therapist?
I think, like many people in the mental health field, from a young age I wanted to better understand people, including myself. As I grew, I also knew that I wanted to help others. My goal was to leave the world a better place than when I entered it, even in a small way. As I took classes, it made perfect sense to me to combine my wish to help others with my curiosity about people. I then worked in a mental health hospital to experience working with many people experiencing a variety of issues, to ensure this was my path. I quickly learned it was, and entered graduate school.
What are the most rewarding aspects of being a therapist?
It is such an honor to be invited into my clients’ lives. The amount of trust they place in me is incredible. Therapy can be so scary, and despite that I am invited on their life journey, even if only for a brief time. Even when doing evaluations, which are typically not therapeutic, many of my clients have found that simply having had me nonjudgmentally listen to them, they begin to feel better. That is often an opportunity for them to realize how helpful therapy can be, and can be the start of their work with another therapist. I also greatly enjoy working with my therapy clients and walking on their journey with them. Seeing them unfold, develop their skills, find their answers, and change their lives is amazing. I still sometimes think back to my clients from over 20 years ago, wonder how they are now, and feel satisfaction with the work we did together.
What’s unique or special in your background or approach to interpersonal relationships?
Honestly, I’m not sure how my background or approach is particularly unique. I imagine, more than anything, what is unique is simply who I am, as with all therapists. I don’t know that it’s my approach as much as simply me. One of the first things I learned in my training was “the therapist is the tool.” We receive training in different techniques, different ways to think of people, and different ways to interact. However. ultimately, it all comes down to the person. I believe it all comes down to the persons in the room – therapist and client/s. How we interact. How we work together.
What are your favorite or most interesting interpersonal relationship tips/advice?
Listening. This is one of the most important pieces of having a positive relationship. We all come into relationships with different experiences, ways of thinking, and ways of reacting. Even if we have similar experiences, it’s important to listen to what the other person is saying, as they may think or feel about the situation quite differently than we do. Additionally, when there is disagreement, we tend to listen less and when we do listen, we listen for how we can prove our point or how the other person is incorrect. Instead of listening with that filter, it’s critical that we simply listen to what the other person is saying so we can better understand. Even when we disagree with others, which is inevitable, it feels so much better to both parties to actually be heard.
What are some things about therapy that you want to increase public awareness about?
I understand that therapy is scary – one has to acknowledge a need for help and then also entrust a stranger with very personal things. Some view needing help as an admission of weakness. Personally, I view it as courageous. There is so much stigma in our society regarding mental health, I believe it is very brave to acknowledge a need for help and then to trust a stranger to help us. I wish mental health issues were less stigmatized – we don’t stigmatize physical health issues. I’d also like people to be more aware of how important the relationship between therapist and client is – if the therapist is not someone the client can connect with, find another therapist who is. Make sure you are comfortable with your therapist. Finally, I’d like people to know that therapy is not a magic wand and it’s not only about the therapist. Therapy does take work, and it can be quite uncomfortable. It’s not only the therapist working – it’s also the client. It takes time and is also very rewarding.
What are some of the biggest mistakes a therapist or patient can make?
I believe that one of the biggest mistakes is not ensuring there is a good match between the therapist and the client. Without there being a good match, little therapeutic work can be done. The match is critical, which is why I offer a free 15-minute interview, in which the client can interview me to see how he or she might feel working with me. If the match is not optimal, I’ve also helped clients find a therapist who is a good match. After all, I got into this field to help people – I want to do all I can to help them find the right therapist.
You can learn more about Dr. Lisa Cloyd at lisacloydphd.com.