I have found that there are certain skills that are helpful for therapists to have regardless of specialty. Interestingly enough, I have also found that most, if not all of these, are not taught to us in graduate school. Like most therapists, I acquired my skills out in the field, not in graduate school. If you’re already skilled in these four things, good for you! If not, you might want to choose one of these topics for your next training or book.
- Anger Management: Most people don’t realize that there is no anger diagnosis in the DSM. Although there has been a lot of talk about adding “toxic anger syndrome” as a legitimate diagnosis, it is yet to make the cut. Rather than be it’s own diagnosis in and of itself, anger is a symptom that can manifest itself within many diagnoses. Client anger is also something that can pop up in session unexpectedly. Furthermore, the recommended treatment for anger issues have changed a lot over the past ten years. Unfortunately, most people still think that the “therapeutic” way of dealing with anger is to hit a punching bag, scream into a pillow, vent, etc. The reason why this is no longer recommended is because it conditions people to scream and hit things when they’re anger. Obviously, that’s not a good thing. The current treatment is to help the client learn to think differently about their anger. Yield Theory is the current cutting edge treatment for anger and I recommend looking into it.
- Couples Counseling: Even if you only work with individuals or only work with kids, the fact of the matter is, our clients don’t exist in a bubble. I have found that relationship issues frequently come up in individual counseling. It’s good to have the skills necessary to help my individual clients be happier and more functional in their relationships. I’m always amazed by how many people come in to therapy because they want someone else to change. Teaching the client how to interact with such people is very helpful. Anyone whose worked with kids knows that frequently the root of the child’s behavioral problems lies at the parent’s relationship. Knowing how to help mom and dad with their relationship is better than years of therapy for the child. Even if you have no intention or desire to work with couples, it is very helpful if you can have your client’s significant other come with them to the session every now and again. It’s even more helpful if you know what to do when they’re there.
- Addiction and substance abuse issues: I am not a drug and alcohol counselor. It is not something I specialize in and I certainly would not take on a client that this was their main issue. However, I thank my lucky stars every day that I originally thought that I wanted to be an addiction specialist and got so much training and experience in this issue. Roughly 10% of Americans are struggling with addiction. Only 10% of that 10% are receiving treatment for their addiction. Although 10% doesn’t sound like that much, nearly every client I have ever had has been touched by addiction, whether personally or by someone close to them. Being knowledgeable about this issue is an asset for any therapist, especially since I’ve also found that many clients are not forthcoming when it comes to addiction. Being able to recognize the signs of substance abuse and knowing what to do about it is invaluable.
- Parenting: Everyone had parents and roughly 80% of people will become parents. If you are a child therapist, you know that being able to work effectively with the child’s parents makes the difference between successful therapy and unsuccessful therapy. I don’t work with children anymore, but I’ve found that even in couples counseling parenting issues come up frequently. Not knowing how to parent effectively can reek havoc on a person’s life. It will negatively affect their mental health, their marriage, their sobriety, and even their career.