One of my Skype clients was recently searching for an in-person therapist to see her husband and decided to ask for a referral from an eminent professional in the city where she lives. With an international reputation, this man has authored several books and is frequently invited to speak at conferences all over the world. Not long after she left a voice message indicating that she’d like him to suggest a referral, he returned her call and offered himself as a candidate. Because she had assumed (given his reputation) that he’d have a full practice, his offer took her by surprise. She felt (and I also felt) that those openings in his practice didn’t reflect well on his skills as a therapist.
After the session in which she and I discussed the referral, I thought differently about it. I recognized my underlying belief, one I suspect is shared by many of my colleagues: in order to appear successful as a therapist (and in many other professions), you cannot appear needy. Back in Los Angeles, my colleagues and I taught classes and supervised interns and gave papers in order to build our practices, but rarely asked directly for referrals. You must put yourself forward as a competent authority, hoping that other people will see you as such and then send referrals your way. Or you buy private supervision from one of the rainmakers in the field, often for years, until they eventually decide to feed you new clients (the president of my institute once privately described it to me as “indentured servitude”). You do all these things to get the clients you need in order to sustain a practice but you’re not supposed to ask for them.
The eminent therapist who asked my client to consider him as a candidate thus looked too needy. In this warped view of mine, expressing need disqualified him as a therapist. In order to get what you need, you have to appear not to need it. Is that crazy? I’m embarrassed that I still hold this view on some level. It feels like a kind of hypocrisy: the people who come to me for therapy often feel ashamed of their own needs, feeling as if they must hide their neediness or be rejected; I always try to help them acknowledge those needs and feel brave enough to ask for what they need in their relationships. Do as I say, not as I do. Tsk tsk tsk.
I feel some embarrassment even now because I need your help, but I’m going to ask for it anyway. As you know, my book Why Do I Do That? will be released later this month — on October 29th, to be precise. Because I withdrew from my contract with New Harbinger Publications, electing to release the book on my own, I don’t have a publicity department behind me; I must take charge of all the promotion myself. I’ll be doing my best to promote awareness through press releases and scheduling interviews, but the greatest potential for making this book a success lies with you, the regular readers of my posts. I’m asking for your support at this critical time.
As you may know, I’ve been writing this website for just about two years now. As of today, I’ve written 168 posts averaging 500-1000 words in length; there are over 5,100 comments on the site, almost half of them mine because I try to answer nearly every reader who submits one. In addition, I’ve received hundreds of private emails from people asking for advice and I’ve answered every one of them. I don’t charge for answering a comment or replying to an email, nor do I accept advertising on my site. After Psychotherapy has been a pro bono lab