The Secret Skills of an Aging Consultant

by | Sep 22, 2022 | EMDR Certification, EMDR Consulting, EMDR Training | 0 comments

There is much written about supervision. There is the responsibility each party agrees to. Clear boundaries are discussed, and there are rules and regulations to follow. Keeping ethical standards is of course the highest priority.  No one much talks about the archetypal nature of mentor and mentees these days. The historic essence of the relationship of master and apprentice that has gone on throughout history is but a distant memory, but not for me. 

I have always sought out people who know secret things. I have always been attracted to those who know secrets. The poet Rainer Maria Rilke gets me. He and I are cut from the same cloth.

Sometimes in the hardly moving times

When something is moving near

I want to be with those who know secret things

or else alone.

Rainer Maria Rilke

 As a young man I was a martial artist because I wanted to know the secrets of that art form. As a musician, I was attracted to a Jazz piano teacher in Pittsburgh, Frank Cunimundo. How does he get the piano to sound like that? Well, he taught me how to do it. As a therapist, I was first attracted to the mystery of dreams and dreams work and learned to unlock their meaning.  Later I was attracted to hypnosis. I wanted to understand the secrets of how the unconscious mind works. I learned all of the secrets from all of these varied disciplines and integrated all of that into a unique understanding of what’s important during an EMDR session. Turns out no one else seemed to notice these things that are clear to me. Turns out, you can’t find these secrets in any books, at least not yet. My book will be out in a few months.

I have always resisted the watering down of the magnificence of the human psyche. I know its mystery and have worked with it in myself and with others my entire life. When I sit down with another human to do the internal work, I know something wonderful is going to happen. 

Michael Meade in his book Genius Myth tells us, “Mentoring involves mythic sense that individual life repeatedly transforms as well as the understanding that with each generation the world must be made anew. Mentoring is a renewable practice with roots in the human soul, a prototypical way of learning and teaching that can bring into play genuinely inspired ideas and heart felt dreams that can alter the conditions of the world.”

If you haven’t noticed, the world can use some alteration. We ask, “What can I do to change the world?” I can mentor with a mythic responsibility that activates genuinely inspired ideas and heart felt dreams in others and one by one we alter the condition of the world.

Let’s examine the relationship between the therapist and the supervisor or master and apprentice. These two people often find themselves at two opposite ends of the circle of life, or at least opposite ends of their therapeutic experience. One is close to the end of their career, and sometimes even their life, and the other closer to the beginning of their career. If this relationship develops properly the mentee will become wiser than their age might suggest. This is caused by the assimilation of the mentor’s wisdom. The knowledge passes to the younger therapist and the cycle continues.  

The mentor also benefits from the relationship by experiencing a youthful renewal that the younger mentee provides. If both have a sacred respect for this relationship both can activate the creative inner genius that lives within each of them. Both can enter the relationship not knowing some hidden things about themselves and each other, but and as the relationship progresses both will learn something new about themselves and each other that neither knew before the relationship. 

This can never happen with a mentor whose purpose is self-serving, the mentor who uses fear and power to manipulate. The mentor, if genuine, is the opposite of those who use their power unjustly. This toxic mentor has positional authority, they have the power to make you or break you and they will use that power. The genuine mentor has inner authority and draws upon a deeper sense of authenticity. The genuine mentors use their power to benefit the mentee and other colleagues in general. One serves themselves and the demands of the moment and the other serves others, and the unforeseen future of the mentee and the world. The genuine mentor aims to awaken the mentee’s soul so when the mentee becomes a mentor, they will do the same and the alteration of the world continues.

Encouraging the mythic quality in this journey of mentorship adds the artistic and mysterious quality to the process. This does not mean science is neglected. Nothing is taken away but rather the richness of the relationship is added. So often psychology is seen solely through the scientific lens. Knowing the rubrics of the EMDR process, understand trauma, learn to manage dissociation, add a little parts work and ego state therapy, and that about covers the curriculum for the mentee, the consultant in training (CIT). This only gets you to a place to start. Now that you can do all that; don’t do that.

True mentoring encourages the consultee to take their own hero’s journey. True mentorship invites a deep exploration into the inner realm of the consultee’s self. Journaling, dreamwork, the trainee’s own EMDR work should be required. True mentorship explores the latest research but also the mystery uncovered by men like Jung, Freud and other early pioneers. 

It is best to seek out the mentor who you suspect knows secret things. It is hard to determine who knows secret things, but it is probably not the person out in front of everyone running around all over the place doing all sorts of different things. Genuine mentors are not looking for attention or for people to tell them how great they are. They are also very discerning. They do not let just anyone into their world. They are aware of the secrets they possess. They know it took a lifetime to learn and most of the lessons have nothing to do with EMDR and that’s the greatest secret of all. To be a master EMDR therapist is about 10% EMDR skills and 90% understanding everything else. None of this can happen without a deadly serious commitment by the mentee.

The same thing that makes a great therapist makes a great mentor: a sense of humor, and if it is self-deprecating so much the better. They must be flexible and mature. They should be interested in learning from you as much as you are interested in learning from them. A real sense that there is something precious behind the curtain, something you know you cannot get anywhere else. The mentor’s purpose as previously stated is not to wield power but to create a safe environment for the trainee to be relaxed enough to do their best work. The mentor brings out the best in the trainee creating access to their inner genius, their creative self within that has been suffocated by intellectual excess.

The genuine mentor knows talents are to be given to others; your life experiences, your secrets are to be shared. This does not mean it is given to everyone and certainly not to just anyone who asks, for it is written, “do not throw pearls before swine.” It is the mentor’s discernment to decide with whom the secrets are shared. One of the most important roles of a mentor is to prepare his or her replacements. This is sometimes difficult. Perhaps a visible example is when an aging quarterback is asked to mentor the young quarterback. Different men in this position respond differently, some embrace the role and others have nothing but disdain for that role. Some hang on too long and some are self-aware enough to know when to let go.

For mental health professionals it should be a little easier. One, mentoring becomes a new job. We are not put out to pasture, in fact, psychotherapy may be one of the few jobs where age is revered and respected. The resistance that comes from older mentors is insecurity, the toxic mentor shares little or nothing of value. This is all driven by the cognition, I’m not good enough. If the mentor has done their inner work and worked with their own EMDR therapist, this does not happen. Keep this in mind, if you are on the fence about taking this in-depth self-exploration yourself, how can you possibly ask your client to take the journey. The “do as I say, not as I do” perspective immediately causes the client to distrust the process and sometimes even the therapist. You handicap the power of EMDR before you ever begin.

If this all seems like Greek to you, I understand. If, however, you have a sense that there is something within you longing to get out. Working with someone like me might be a good idea.

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