Updated: Apr 18
People often ask me for a simplified answer to this 2-part personal development question: “Why do some practitioners tell you to 'only focus on what you want more of' and that 'talk therapy’ is supposedly bad for you ...while others say that 'making sense of your past' through 'talk' is an essential part of integrating trauma or healing our past wounds?"
I understand the confusion. There’s a lot of seemingly conflicting information out there.
Most of it's because..
..the science behind, and our understanding of childhood brain and emotional nervous system development, has only really taken off in the last 20 years or so. It's changing how we parent. And it's changing how we heal.
Yet...many practitioners are still just now learning this. And some still work from therapeutic models that when used alone are becoming less and less relevant.
So the short video at the end of this post will hopefully give you a better understanding from a brain pathway perspective, of why the ‘talk’ and ‘discovery’ aspect of any therapeutic support is so important - especially if you want your changes to last.
But since I brought it up, let me briefly share as a lead-in, a few characteristics that helped me select a helpful, therapeutic practitioner. There are a lot of them out there these days! And because of that, it's important to remember, they are working for you. YOU are in charge of your recovery. So when deciding who to select as your guide, asking a few good questions can help you identify the 'strictly academics' from those who have education coupled with firsthand, personal experience.
What I look for in a practitioner
When it comes to healing or any therapeutic support, I've found that those who tell you to 'absolutely avoid this’ and ‘only do this’ or ‘this way is crap’ and ‘this way is better’…. well, there's a good chance they're still in early stages of their own healing.
They may have a lot of education and skill in whatever field they specialized in. But that doesn't mean they've self-applied it enough times, or for long enough, to experience comprehensive, sustainable change themselves. Which means they may not see (yet) the ‘bigger picture’ of integrative healing. This isn’t a crime. It’s just worth noting. Different practitioners at different levels of healing can still be very helpful...IF they stay within their scope of practice and teach from their first-hand, personal experience.
But it's when an inexperienced coach tries to 'positive-mindset' someone out of a traumatic experience, or an intellect-heavy therapist who hasn't resolved their own relational wounds tries to guide someone else's relational healing...that these helping-field mismatches can become problematic.
It’s a common misconception that all practitioners, therapists or coaches have done their own work or are fully integrated (healed). Many are. Many are not. Some may have even unconsciously entered the field as a way to distract from their own emotional healing, by focusing on someone else's. What I'm saying is that active practitioners may still be in process themselves.
That doesn’t mean you can’t learn something from them. But when you interview your potential therapist, coach or practitioner, asking good questions will help you see if they’ve been through, or currently are … where you, yourself, want to go.
We can really only lead people where we, ourselves, have been.
Yes, there's value in partnering with someone and going through something new to both of you, for the first time together. But is that the role of a paid therapist, coach or practitioner? Or is going through something new to both of you, together... the role of a good friend or a support group? Give that some thought.
Those who have helped me the most
From my own personal work, the most experienced practitioners were ones who made a strong case for what they could offer from their education and personal experience, while also encouraging me to research whatever style, language or modality that resonated with me. They knew how they could help. And they willingly admitted where they were weak and when they 'didn't know' something.
They also encouraged me to learn in a variety of ways in between my therapy sessions - other people's books, classes, seminars, and workshops. They understood at an experiential level that although they could add a lot of value from their own education and experience, there are many contributors to healing. And no one person, one modality or one approach was the complete answer.
In addition, the most helpful practitioners spoke many 'languages', one of which is understanding that we can’t deny our human physiology and how our species develops in the first 10-12 years if life. They understood the neuroscience of childhood development and had an updated understanding of brain function. They understood that lasting emotional-nervous-system moderation took daily repetition over time. They understood cognitive behavioral psychology, the use of mindset work as one helpful tool, and advocated for some type of spiritual or energetic practice. In other words, they understood from a mind, body and 'soul' perspective, that integrative healing requires a comprehensive, multi-angle approach that includes looking to the future…. acknowledging the present.... as well as resolving our past... often at the same time.
So I hope this 4-minute video helps you understand why self-discovery work is so important, from your brain’s perspective. It’s an excerpt from one of our online classes, “What’s Stopping You? Discovering the Beliefs that are Limiting your Potential”
The Human Infusion Project is a philanthropic, personal development platform that draws from the combined fields of modern brain science, applied psychology and spiritual philosophy. Our mission aims to augment and supplement the work of professional practitioners in simplified, practical and affordable ways. 100% of all online class profit funds the Wellness Assistance Grant.