Several colleagues, friends, and students have asked me recently what I thought makes someone a successful therapist and how they themselves could become more successful as a therapist. The answer came to me few weeks ago while out for a morning jog on a sunny beach in Goa, India. Point after point began to reveal itself and a basic framework appeared in my mind. As a result, I have outlined the following eleven steps that helped me be successful on my path. The formula I explain here is the result of sixteen years of experience, study, and “inner work” which I have done on myself. This formula can be used as a general guideline for any therapist working with people through bodywork, massage, breath work, dance, yoga or psychotherapy. I call this a ‘general’ guideline because we all are unique individuals, and someone may have more or different steps to add. On the other hand, some of the steps may not work for you. I am sure many of you could expand my list with additional valuable suggestions based on your own experiences.
This article is for anyone who has asked themselves important questions such as, “how can I be a successful therapist?”, or “what makes someone a successful therapist?”. To start with, let’s answer the question of what is even meant by ‘a successful therapist’. In my opinion, a successful therapist is someone who lives what they teach and who rejoices in the spiritual, emotional, and material aspects of their being. I have been studying many different types of therapy since 1999. At the beginning of my journey I participated in psychotherapy healing sessions and started practicing Hatha Yoga and Lomi Lomi Nui Massage. In 2008 I moved to India where I intensively studied massage, bodywork, breath work, and tantra. The practice of these therapies is now my current profession.
There is not a priority in the order of the following steps, each one is equally important in creating the guideline that I like to follow:
1. TAKING CARE OF THE BODY: As a therapist working with people, first and foremost I take care of my own body. Acceptance and care for my own “temple” helps me find vitality and passion for the work I am doing. Of course we are much more then our bodies, but everything starts with the body. A formula that works very well for me is that for every 7 sessions I give, I receive at least one healing modality session. This helps me stay more relaxed and have a deeper understanding of the healing process through my own body. Additionally each year I go to Kerala, India where I participate in a 4 week Panchakarma Detox Retreat at an Ayurvedic Clinic. This totally rejuvenates and relaxes my body on the emotional, physical, and spiritual levels. I know many amazing therapists, but they often forget to take care of their bodies, resulting in some disease, burn out, or fatigue.
2. EMPATHY AND COMPASSION: I continue to develop empathy, love, and non-judgemental qualities by participating in various kinds of healing therapies each year. This on-going work helps me to “clean up” my conditioning and be aware of my own wounds. For example, Craniosacral Therapy helps me stay in an empathetic and non-judgemental state throughout the sessions I give, and this expands my spiritual “muscles” for more compassion. As a human being we have tendency to judge, which might result in judging the clients. Countertransference is a term coined by Freud that is commonly used in therapy, whereby our own “material” gets stimulated, resulting in projecting it onto our clients. This has to be held in awareness and consciousness. As a therapist I want to be like a “mirror” − reflecting with no judgement. A therapist should have empathy and allow clients to see themselves and their conditioning. I like to give compliments and express support to other therapists or teachers in my field. Even if I consider them “competition” I don’t criticize them. Criticism is often the result of jealousy and fear. Fear cuts me off from my own energy and my heart. In life I want to stay compassionate and loving to others and myself.
3. CHARGING EXPERT PRICES: When setting the prices of my sessions or workshops I very rarely consider the current market prices. Instead, I charge as if I am an expert in my profession. I am charging for sixteen years of experience, study, and life wisdom that comes from learning from many amazing teachers and masters from all over the world. As a therapist I give my full attention, presence and acceptance to my clients, and this is priceless. Many of them are being heard, listened to, and seen – maybe for the first time in their lives. This creates trust and self-empowerment, which are important steps in their healing journey.
4. ORDINARINESS AND HUMILITY: Feelings of humbleness and humility help me to overcome my ego and ignorance. They help me stay open minded, to see others and their truth. Conscious living is not based on duality, things are not sometimes as we wish them to be, and people often don’t behave to fulfil our expectations. Not because they don’t like us, but simply because they perceive life through a different pair of glasses. Being aware of my failures and mistakes is as important as remembering my own successes and being proud of them. I am willing to make mistakes and accept them as a part of my journey, always learning from them and growing. Often my successes were the result of understanding the difficulties I was facing on my own path, and overcoming them with my strength and wisdom. Being ordinary and humble helps me to be watchful of my ego and to stay trusting of other people’s ways, opinions, and belief systems.
5. LEARNING CONTINUOUSLY: Continuous learning makes my teaching and sessions “fresh”, alive and passionate. It helps me to avoid routines and boredom in my work. From the new teachings I am involved with I constantly bring in new insights. I like following the latest news and techniques of the best teachers in my profession. I go to their websites, buy their DVDs, and watch their videos on YouTube. I want to learn from them as much as possible. At least once a year I sign up for a course in a modality that I want to improve my skills. When signing up for courses I choose the best universities, institutes or academies in Europe. This means they are often very expensive, but I don’t care. I know that often price corresponds to the quality of training and expertise of the teachers. In the past I was looking only for cheaper courses in order to save money. After a while I ended up at the best schools anyways as I wanted to deepen my skills. So I learned that taking cheap courses does not save me time and money. Instead, I go directly to the best schools trusting that money will find its way to be replenished. In today’s world, information and education are two of the best values and investments you can make in yourself. By continually learning, I invest in the best possible asset ever.
6. EMOTIONAL FLUIDITY: Working and supporting others in their emotional fluidity as a therapist, I want to be comfortable with the full range of my own feelings. The main seven feelings that each human being has regardless of sex, race or age are: rage, fear, sadness, joy, anger, disgust, and jealousy. To be fluid emotionally I want to take responsibility. I like to connect with my daily mantra and its inner voice of: “I am responsible for my actions, thoughts, words and feelings and the conscious expression of them without hurting myself or others”. Expressed feelings allow the energy to flow freely through the body. Many illnesses of today’s world are due to unexpressed emotions and feelings. An important law of therapy says: “each client can only go as deep into the therapy and emotional release as the therapist has done themselves”. For example, if I am not comfortable with my own sadness it will be difficult for a client to feel his or her own sadness when working with me. They will know on subconscious level that I might not be able to handle it well.
7. MARKETING AND PROMOTION: After each session or training I offer, I set aside fifteen per cent of the payment to be used for future marketing and promotion. I am constantly searching for new ways of marketing. My main ways of promoting are Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter and other social media plugins. The best and most fulfilling way of being promoted is through word of mouth – when people talk and rave about my work. I like to connect with people, so I am often looking and enquiring as to how I can merge my resources with other teachers or portals, thereby reaching more people who might be interested in my sessions and workshops. One of the most important ways of reaching out is my monthly newsletter that is sent to over twelve thousand recipients. To keep it interesting I prepare along with my colleagues new articles, pictures, and videos. I am usually not very interested in checking statistics to see how a particular method of promotion works. I trust in the law of nature. Whatever I put out to the universe, with intention of service and support for others, will always come back to me in one way or another. I read, learn and study from people who are experts in marketing. One of them is Andy Harrington, who is one of the premier specialists of marketing and public speaking in the world. Currently I am in the process of implementing in my own business his approach of ‘Unique Branded Solution and Pitch To Grow Rich Formula’. I love exploring and experimenting with new ideas to check how they work.
8. WALK MY TALK: I never teach anything which has not become my own wisdom and experience. As a kinaesthetic person I like to acquire these experiences through my body and my touch. While I personally think that book knowledge is very important, true wisdom comes through an experiential approach. When this happens it is then much easier and clearer to present the subject to others. For example, reading anatomical books was very useful for me but it’s only due to numerous bodywork sessions and my passion for the body that I gained the wisdom of its miracles. By “walking my talk” I have become a source of inspiration and am considered trustworthy by others. This also magically opens up channels to meet interesting people who are an inspiration for myself, creating the infinite loop. To be authentic, I look into my own habits and learn new ones that help spiritual growth, and replace those that don’t serve me anymore. In my opinion one of the main differences between successful people and those that struggle with success is that the former are interested in overcoming weaknesses and becoming stronger in their body, mind, and spirit. In my own life I had struggled for some years to take care of my own body properly. I spent a great deal of time traveling and using my body as a tool for my work, but did not take care of myself physically. I was fooling myself that I didn’t need to take care of my body, that I don’t have the time or energy, and created many other excuses. I was not motivated to learn new habits for keeping myself in good physical health. The breakthrough happened for me when I participated in Anthony Robbins’ group “The Way Ahead” in 2014. Something inside me shifted and I made a deep commitment with myself to learn new ways. Today I feel much healthier, stronger, and more flexible, and I continue to engage in different physical activities for at least 30 minutes a day.
9. AWARENESS AND MEDITATION: Living in the present moment is for me essential; the future and past are illusions. I used to spend most of my life worrying about the future or clinging to the past, and as a result I was never happy or present, experiencing only a deep sense of “emptiness” in my life. Living in the present moment brings me to my own truth and gives me freedom to decide consciously about the next moment from the here-and-now. What is beautiful about presence is that it’s a journey – it comes and goes but the more I practice, the more I AM. What helps is daily meditation. One of my priorities to find some quiet time during each day to meditate and be in silence. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of ways to meditate and everybody can choose their way depending on personality, life style or circumstances. At the beginning of my spiritual journey I practiced daily for many years a variety of Osho active meditations. Those are excellent ways to calm down and bring peace to the anxious mind of Western people. These days I practice more of a Zen or Vipassana type of meditation based on observation and being witness to what is, without adding any label to thoughts. For me a very powerful way to be in the present moment is using the body’s intelligence, senses, and breathing. Those can be constantly used during day as a tool for being here and NOW.
10. MENTOR AND MENTEE: Finding a mentor to whom I could trust took me many years. Today I have a few mentors who are gifted in different areas of life. A mentor is someone who is one, two, or sometimes a hundreds steps ahead of me, and whose wisdom helps me in difficult times. When I am uncertain in life or afraid to make an important decision, I seek help by asking a mentor for their opinion. Thinking of some problem subconsciously I attract more problem, as my focus is on the negative. The key is how do I refocus to see “no problem”? That is a bit difficult while I am engaging with the problem. The problem becomes my world. Mentors can help me look into the whole situation from different perspectives and see different solutions. Another aspect of teaching is to become a mentor for others, to teach and share my wisdom with others. In fact, I have learned the most about myself through teaching others. Teaching and becoming a mentor is the best way for me to increase my knowledge and wisdom. This requires lot of courage. At the beginning of my teaching many questions come up: “I am not ready, others are better, maybe in some time, I need to learn more”. But please remember what I said in the beginning of this paragraph – to become a mentor for someone it is enough to be only one or two steps ahead. This makes you an expert in the eyes of that person, and sometimes you can help more than the person who is far too ahead as they might not fully understand the situation. The key for me was to become a mentor for subjects I loved and felt passionate about.
11. FOLLOWING THE HEART: After graduating from the Technical University in Warsaw as production engineer in 2002, I took my first job at an international corporation. After a few years of working many hours in a sitting position and being in a stressful office environment, I started feeling tension, stress and pain in my body. I suffered from eczema, psoriasis, severe back pain, neck pain and migraines. At that point I decided to change my life, change my lifestyle, find inner peace, and have a profession that I was passionate about. I decided to go to India to travel and learn about a new life. It took many months of internal battling between my mind and my heart to find the courage to make the final step and quit that job. My mind was not happy with the idea of leaving a safe and well paying job and loosing all the benefits of the corporate world. My heart knew the way, but it was not easy to listen to it at first. Today I live the life I dreamt of; I travel the world, meet amazing people, share with them, and teach what I am passionate about. I fear to think what would have happened if I had listened to my mind nine years ago. I value, appreciate and follow the intelligence of my mind, however when it comes to important life decisions I prefer to follow my heart, knowing that its loving and gentle whispering will be the right direction for me.
By following this formula you can expect some radical transformation in your life. The change however requires some time and patience. Often rapid shifts are not steady and long lasting. American author Og Mandino wrote, “To create the olive, king of all trees, a hundred years is required. An onion plant is old in nine weeks”. Ask yourself, do you wish to live as an onion plant or would you prefer to be like the olive tree? If you found this article interesting, choose some of the points from the list and nourish them day-by-day, week-by-week. And when you feel ready, move to the next ones. Start with those that seem most challenging, as those will take a longer time to implement in your life. But before starting anything, sit comfortable, close your eyes, take a deep breath and appreciate what you already have and who you are in this moment.
Article by Nisarga Eryk Dobosz