Practice Imperfect is a show about vulnerability and imperfection in psychotherapy. If you’ve ever felt like you aren’t really equipped to help your clients, if you sometimes think in the middle of a session “this person should be with a real therapist”, if you’ve ever felt like you are faking it, if you’ve ever looked around the room at a training and felt like an impostor, then welcome. You’ve come to the right place. Our show is about connecting people together within the psychotherapy community who share this kind of experience. To understand that it’s not about being perfect. Rather, it’s about having the courage to enter into the dark and lonely spaces of people’s lives. Recognizing there isn’t often an easy way out, but being willing to walk alongside people in the darkness as we, ourselves, also journey. Coming to know that being vulnerable and leaning into the imperfect leads to something better for all of us.
Mini Episode 2: Quarantine Poem
We wrote and recorded this mini episode to provide a little encouragement during the harrowing uncertainty of the covid-19 outbreak.
Recorded on phones in people's homes by our generous guests from Season 1: Audrey Mayer LCSW, Barbara Pfingst MA Spiritual Guidance, Bonna Horovitz LCSW, Elora Kalish LCSW & Michelle Gardiner LCSW
And our hosts, Monica Griffin, Bill DeSiena and Ian Laidlaw
Featuring music by Like Trees
Episode 19: A Letter to Ramy
In this final episode of Season 1, we go out as we came in. Ian shares one of his life regrets in a moving and vulnerable podcast letter to a friend and reflects on fear, hope, love, friendship and failure. But also in the hope of bringing our shame into the light and creating space and community through that process. Like the best of our work as therapists.
If you have been encouraged by our show, please consider helping us to develop Season 2 by donating to our GoFundMe campaign (search for "Practice Imperfect"). Any donations over $100 get a Practice Imperfect Tote Bag as a gift! And also our eternal gratitude. Supporters will also be listed on our website (unless you'd prefer to remain anonymous).
Episode 18: Role Play – Faith in the Process
Have you ever had a client ask you to reveal your particular faith or religious practice as a condition of continuing to work together? How do we as therapists navigate the awkward moment when the client makes a demand to disclose our personal beliefs?
In our latest unrehearsed role play, our therapist (played by Barbara Pfingst) keeps that ball of contemplation aloft with client “Jean” (played by Bill DeSiena), when this uncomfortable question invites self-disclosure of religious values and morals. Our client enters this session wrestling with their sister’s recent nonconforming behavior and distancing from a shared religious community, and whether it’s ok not to have a relationship with the sister because of it. What develops in session is our client considering whether other important relationships should be renegotiated, or even ended – including the reveal that the deepening relationship with therapist Barbara is on the chopping block too, should she either choose to withhold this information, or reveal values incompatible with Jean’s.
In Episode 18, we watch the unfolding angst between therapist and client, and we sense that yielding to the demand for self-disclosure is precarious at best. Our client effectively hangs in with an inner conflict of how their tenets of faith and moral compass should affect decisions about whom they love and connect with. We witness our therapist working cautiously to just be with the client, without succumbing to the client’s wishes. In the aftermath, Barbara de-roles and reveals how her own inner struggle with worthiness affected her as the therapist, while Bill as himself shares how his own past experience with dogmatic faith and codependency impacted the role of client Jean.
We invite you to share with the PI community how you’ve dealt with faith-based values when they’ve entered the room with your client.
Episode 17: Love in Psychotherapy Part 2
Our discussion about love in psychotherapy continues: How do we convey our affection for the client sitting across from us, without crossing the line of impropriety? Psychotherapy will most naturally invite a reenactment of patterns in a person’s life, between client and therapist. When we can with intention do something in the clinical relationship to break that reenactment, to invite a chance for repair and healing in, is it ok to tell our client that we really like, even love them?
If you’re looking for a light and fluffy topic right now, this is not the episode for you. Head to the kitchen and make an omelet instead.
In Part 2 of the Love Episode, we dive deeper into what it means when we genuinely care about our client, when the affection we feel is mutual. The potential for powerful healing is there, side-by-side with the fear that we risk mucking things up in this clinical setting. When a person isolating in extreme emotional pain sits across from us, beckoning for an external answer to finding happiness again, it is our capacity as a loving being who can show up to simply walk with them in their pain, as an act of love, reaffirming the power of human connection. What can bring comfort in the moment is not the path out, but the companionship that a therapist can provide when there seems to be nowhere else to go.
Team PI discusses our own vulnerability in the therapist setting, what happens after we affectionately open up to a client that they matter to us, and muse on whether insurance companies could measure love as an evidenced-based tool – and what our progress notes would be like if they did.
And by the way, we want you to know that we love you…our listeners.
Episode 16: Love in Psychotherapy Part 1
Have you ever told a client how much you like them? How you think you could be friends outside of a session, and maybe meet one day for a cup of coffee? Maybe even how you actually have feelings for them? Okay – stop the soft (or creepy) background music. We’re not talking about romantic feelings. But why and how we choose to show a client that we genuinely care for them, when doing so doesn’t disrupt their process and instead deepens it, is at the heart of this episode, Love in Psychotherapy.
As professionals, we’re trained to maintain healthy boundaries, to hold back from displays of open affection toward clients, because to do otherwise could cause harm to them. We consider every client as an individual with unique challenges, yet the more common human thread for all surrounds the interpersonal issues we face. When taking a calculated risk in session to push that boundary, to offer a hug, to share words of affection, the clinical relationship can become a healing, even powerful experience for both therapist and client. It may be one of the few places for those we serve where it feels safe to just receive, devoid of some sticky obligation that doesn’t feel genuine.
Our Practice Imperfect hosts discuss the riveting climax in the classic film Ordinary People, and how effective psychiatrist Dr. Berger softened the boundaries with his client Conrad in crisis to achieve an incredible breakthrough. Yes, this is Hollywood; also yes, components of their deeper relationship seem very real to our work. Team PI asks why it can feel weird after we ourselves become vulnerable with a client, and whether our own attachment styles come into play. Take a listen and also learn why Ian, Monica and Bill will not be going to the Oscars this year.
Episode 15: Danielle and Brian Part 2
In Part 2 of our interview, guests Danielle Capra LMSW and Brian Figueroa LPC dive deeper to find peace with the notion that psychotherapy can both improve the client’s experience in the world and be self-serving to the clinician. Brian talks about how he sees our work as an art form, where the work becomes something greater than just him, yet feels personally empowering – that he can help to make a change in someone else’s world. Danielle acknowledges her own suffering and the chance for healing that comes up in session for us as therapists, along with the opportunity to help a client channel their pain into something else, which may teach them to do the same for someone they love.
What are the moments we fear most that could happen when sitting across from a client? Our two psychotherapists share their worst nightmares: when the parent of an adolescent client interrupts to say that you don’t know what you’re doing (aka “you suck!”) and storms out, or when someone becomes physically intimidating. We usually choose to carry on with our work, with the courage to be vulnerable, while cautious in our decision whether to self-disclose or yield to a client’s expressed need for a hug. Our clients teach us much, our guests acknowledge. At the end of our professional day or night, it’s up to us to take care of ourselves, to get what we need to go back in and do this work again.