Interview with Maureen Houtz, MA, LMFT

What are some of the biggest mistakes a therapist or patient can make?

Despite the 3000 hour process and years of education, many therapists make the mistake of assuming the work is solving the client’s problem.
Thinking we are responsible for a person’s marriage or their children is a mistake. A therapist that has just met a client thinking they are the answer to the client’s problem is presumptuous and arrogant. Some of the biggest mistakes a therapist can make include ethic violations as well as financial ones. It seems it should not have to be said and yet regularly therapists get themselves in trouble when they isolate and forget their role.

One of my passions is teaching associates the proper process of providing therapy. It is for this reason that I help them understand the value of the client’s experience, their choices, their coping patterns all in an effort to seek to understand rather than judge.

Having done some teaching at the masters level, I have often remarked that the school programs teach all the theories and book knowledge. As a result the university’s graduate students are eager to apply what they have learned, so eager to help. Yet the 3000 hour process is designed to teach the art of therapy, the ethics of therapy, the boundaries of therapy; the art of being with the client.

The notion of being a guide with the primary purpose being to understand and meet the client where they are is of utmost importance. The relationship is key. It is the only way change is possible.

When therapists are not clear about the financial aspect of their services, confusion and missteps can occur. Knowing the relationship is one that is unequal- the client is paying for a service, a service you provide makes for a clear and clean understanding. I have known many therapists, often female, who are so uncomfortable about this aspect that they don’t earn what they are worth.

As for the clients or patients, one of their errors is in their expectations. I believe clients should shop for the therapist that suits them best. And yet I realize it is difficult to share their personal story with more than one stranger. Although the work we do is not car repair, I often encourage clients who are reticent about therapy due to a prior negative experience to liken this to needing a good mechanic after having a lousy one. You can’t let the car languish- it needs help and so do we. Find the therapist that suits you, I am sure s/he is out there.

Bio

Maureen has been licensed since 1986. Her experience is in the areas of couple therapy and working with teens and adults who are struggling with anxiety and depression. She works best with clients who desire to change destructive patterns and who want to learn to see their part in the “dance.”

Maureen is married and has two grown daughters, two sons in law and two granddaughters. “I consider it an honor and a privilege to share the joys and sorrows of my clients, and gain a greater understanding of God’s grace each day.

Maureen’s Philosophy of Therapy

My initial goal always with any client I see is to seek to understand. I don’t believe I can be helpful until I understand their situation. I believe most of us do what we do because we believe it works, it is habitual or we have no idea how to change it.

I always want to provide an honest reality check for my clients. They need to know that what they are saying or thinking is clear or not; is sane or not; is true or not. I desire to assist the client in making the change they seek. Change doesn’t happen with insight alone. True change occurs when people act differently. Unless insight results in behavior change I believe I have wasted the client’s time and money.

Because of my training in systems theory, I believe effecting change in one person can result in greater changes for their family system. Whether the client comes in alone, with their mother or their spouse, my approach is one that encompasses their entire world. In the area of couples therapy my hope is to reduce the polarization that occurs with couples in conflict. I use the Gottman method of couple therapy primarily (I am a Gottman Seven Principles educator) since I find it to be skill building, practical and successful. Why does therapy work? Because an individual dares to trust a mere stranger with their story. That mere stranger comes to care for this individual. Out of this mutual respect, the client boldly tries on new behaviors. Therapy works because a relationship built on respect, honesty and integrity is established.

As a committed Christian I pray for all of my clients. Since many of my clients profess to be Christian, I am able to challenge or dissuade them on the basis of our shared belief system. It is a privilege to be trusted and empowered to effect change in people.

You can learn more about Maureen Houtz at MaureenHoutz.com.

Author: Rac

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