Photo ID: Butterfly stages of development; the chrysalis at the beginning and end of the pupa stage and the resulting monarch butterfly with text overlay

How Do Therapists Develop?

Curt and Katie chat about how therapists can be rigid in their thinking at times and then seem to be performing mental gymnastics at other times. We look at the developmental stages of therapists (drawing from William Perry’s work) and identify where therapists get stuck, where they often regress, rebel, or sink into compliance.


Click here to scroll to the podcast transcript.

In this podcast episode we talk about what typical development looks like for therapists

Therapists go through developmental stages just like everyone else. We thought it would be good to look at how therapists can get stuck in rigidity (or do mental gymnastics) at early stages of development.

How can therapists be both rigid AND do mental gymnastics?

  • Therapists employ mental gymnastics when they are trying to put together conflicting ideas and solve all of the problems in the field, individually
  • Rigidity can happen when people have “figured out” their own choices and believe that everyone should do what they do
  • Under-resourced and under-motivated folks can often get very rigid

How do William Perry’s developmental stages apply to therapist development?

  • First stage is dualism (i.e., right or wrong), everything is fixable or solvable (grad school students wanting to know what to do)
  • Second stage is about finding the right authority to listen to (i.e., sticking very tightly to a specific modality)
  • Third stage, early multiplicity, which is getting to the stage where therapists start to know what they don’t know
  • Fourth stage, late multiplicity, most problems have solutions we don’t know, people can have their own opinions, and some problems can’t be solved. This is a very uncomfortable stage.
  • There are additional stages mentioned in the episode, we focus on Stage 4
  • When people get stuck at stage 4, they are likely to regress to early stages (and become more rigid) or they are likely to rebel, or play the game

What are the concerns with therapists at earlier stages not moving through to later stages?

“Strictly just telling people, ‘Hey, you’re doing this wrong,’ reinforces fall in line, go back to one of those earlier developmental stages. Rather than: ‘play through the consequences on this. What would it be like to only adhere to this very strict policy?’ And I think that when we tend to grow up in this field, if we aren’t given the space to be able to kind of start thinking for ourselves, that we tend to mentor in the ways that we were mentored. And if this just becomes one generation of rigid mentorships to the next. And that’s just what gets passed down. I think that that’s part of what contributes to our field here is that this just becomes the rigid leading the rigid.” – Curt Widhalm, LMFT

  • Therapist Facebook groups may support stage 4 and earlier therapists providing dualistic or simplistic questions and answers leading to shortsighted
  • Difficulty looking at any opposing voices due to rigidity or rebellion or compliance

How can therapists avoid rigidity in their thinking (or rebellion, or compliance)?

“We need to have deeper conversations, not these rigid, tiny little conversations about what we should do and not do.” – Katie Vernoy, LMFT

  • Providing space to understand the options
  • Employing critical thinking
  • Deeper thought about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it
  • Explore context and have conversations with folks further along in their development

Resources for Modern Therapists mentioned in this Podcast Episode:

We’ve pulled together resources mentioned in this episode and put together some handy-dandy links. Please note that some of the links below may be affiliate links, so if you purchase after clicking below, we may get a little bit of cash in our pockets. We thank you in advance!

William Perry’s Scheme of Intellectual and Mental Development

Our Linktree:

Relevant Episodes of MTSG Podcast:

That’s Unethical

An Incomplete List of Everything Wrong with Therapist Education: An interview with Diane Gerhart, LMFT

Career Trekking with MTSG: An interview with Marissa Esquibel, LMFT

The Burnout System

Penny Wise and Pound Foolish: Thoughts on investing and getting paid as a therapist

Supervision in the Real World: Understanding what makes an effective supervisory alliance

Who we are:

Picture of Curt Widhalm, LMFT, co-host of the Modern Therapist's Survival Guide podcast; a nice young man with a glorious beard.Curt Widhalm, LMFT

Curt Widhalm is in private practice in the Los Angeles area. He is the cofounder of the Therapy Reimagined conference, an Adjunct Professor at Pepperdine University and CSUN, a former Subject Matter Expert for the California Board of Behavioral Sciences, former CFO of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, and a loving husband and father. He is 1/2 great person, 1/2 provocateur, and 1/2 geek, in that order. He dabbles in the dark art of making “dad jokes” and usually has a half-empty cup of coffee somewhere nearby. Learn more at:

Picture of Katie Vernoy, LMFT, co-host of the Modern Therapist's Survival Guide podcastKatie Vernoy, LMFT

Katie Vernoy is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, coach, and consultant supporting leaders, visionaries, executives, and helping professionals to create sustainable careers. Katie, with Curt, has developed workshops and a conference, Therapy Reimagined, to support therapists navigating through the modern challenges of this profession. Katie is also a former President of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. In her spare time, Katie is secretly siphoning off Curt’s youthful energy, so that she can take over the world. Learn more at:

A Quick Note:

Our opinions are our own. We are only speaking for ourselves – except when we speak for each other, or over each other. We’re working on it.

Our guests are also only speaking for themselves and have their own opinions. We aren’t trying to take their voice, and no one speaks for us either. Mostly because they don’t want to, but hey.

Stay in Touch with Curt, Katie, and the whole Therapy Reimagined #TherapyMovement:


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Podcast Homepage

Therapy Reimagined Homepage





Consultation services with Curt Widhalm or Katie Vernoy:

The Fifty-Minute Hour

Connect with the Modern Therapist Community:

Our Facebook Group – The Modern Therapists Group

Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide Creative Credits:

Voice Over by DW McCann

Music by Crystal Grooms Mangano

Transcript for this episode of the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide podcast (Autogenerated):

Transcripts do not include advertisements just a reference to the advertising break (as such timing does not account for advertisements).

… 0:00
(Opening Advertisement)

Announcer 0:00
You’re listening to the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide, where therapists live, breathe, and practice as human beings. To support you as a whole person and a therapist, here are your hosts, Curt Widhalm, and Katie Vernoy.

Curt Widhalm 0:15
Welcome back modern therapists, this is the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide. I’m Curt Widhalm with Katie Vernoy. And this is the podcast for therapists about the things that we do in our practices, in our lives, and to each other, and all of the messages that we get, and we get a lot of emails, comments, questions at our conferences, when we present, just kind of, there seems to be a lot of conflicting advice given to us as far as what we should be in the fields. On one hand, we should charge what we’re worth on the other, we need to be accessible to everybody. And what we’ve found is that these answers kind of changed. That there’s some stages of development that depending on where you’re at, in your career, you might look at some of this advice as being actual, you know, straight up facts that you have to follow. Those who are further along and things might find that they’re reacting in other ways. And the ultimate place that a lot of us try to hopefully come to is understanding the context of things. So especially if you’re a student, or pre licensed person here, stick with this put on your grad-hesive and listen through this episode. And…

Katie Vernoy 1:26
What is grad-hesive?

Curt Widhalm 1:28
It’s, it’s sticking with it as a grad students.

Katie Vernoy 1:31
Oh, my gosh, okay. I think what we’re gonna say is actually helpful for folks who are considering becoming a supervisors as well. So…

Curt Widhalm 1:38

Katie Vernoy 1:39
In any developmental stage, I think this is a good episode to listen to.

Curt Widhalm 1:43
This is something where there is a lot of conflicting advice in the field. We’ve talked about, you know, prioritizing what your values are, you can’t have it all. But there is just kind of some mental gymnastics that people have to go through as far as being like, I need to do this, and I need to do this that leads to trying to do it all and burning out, being flustered. Where did you think that this comes from?

Katie Vernoy 2:07
I think first I want to describe a little bit more what mental gymnastics look like, because I think there’s mental gymnastics on one end. And I think there’s also some real rigidity on the other end. And so I want to just talk briefly about that. Because if we look at charge your worth, but be accessible, I think some of the mental gymnastics there goes to make sure you’re charging full fee to most of the folks and then do like a handful of pro bono clients, or do a hybrid practice, or like people figure out hey, what does this mean? How do I how do I charge my worth, or make enough money or get a good living, while also being accessible? And what we’ve talked about before and what all I’ll do in the shownotes, is make sure to link to some of these other episodes, but we’ve talked about really identifying what you want, and what’s going to make your practice better, and don’t fix systemic problems individually. Like you can’t fix access by yourself, for example.

Curt Widhalm 3:01

Katie Vernoy 3:02
But I don’t think that gets practical enough for folks. Because I think there’s this other element of if I’m not doing these mental gymnastics, trying to do these two dichotomous things, then I’m getting really rigid. And going to a place of Well, no, I’m going to charge as much as I can. And I’m not going to worry about access at all. And if you worry about access, you’re doing it wrong, or vice versa, right? And so then we get into the that’s unethical or you were awful, or how do you do that, and it becomes this, this, either I’m pulling everything in and trying to figure out how to do all of it at once, or I filtered through it. And now everyone should do it the way that I do it, and is very rigid. And I think to me that that comes from a fairly early developmental stage. And theoretically, we would move out of this, but I don’t think as a profession that that always happens. I think that there are folks that end up stuck in these developmental stages because they don’t know where to go. And I think that’s the hard part for me is I see folks, even later career folks, sometimes in this more rigid place. And then they’re also continuing these things. If they’re supervising or mentoring or consulting with folks and kind of saying, You must do it this way. You must, you must do 100% EFT or you must do 100% DBT. Like it’s those types of things were given situational things where those might be the right answers. I think that it becomes this thing where it’s very hard to get out of this rigid space if we’re not moving along the stages of development as professionals.

Curt Widhalm 4:46
So we’re gonna get into some of the stages of how we see one of the models looking at kind of our fields here, but I’m wondering, what is limiting some of the people from actually progressing, especially, you know, some of these supervisors or later career clinicians that they’re not moving to kind of this space where they don’t, they can afford to not be rigid about everything?

Katie Vernoy 5:14
That’s a good question. I think when folks get stuck being rigid, there’s this element of a lack of resources in some way. And it could be a lack of resilience. It could be folks that are burnt out or, or kind of phoning it in, I think, especially in later career, they just are so exhausted with the field. I think there’s also that that element for later career folks anyway, where it’s like, I know what I know. And I’m getting CE at the last moment that align exactly with what I’m already doing. And there’s not a kind of openness to controversy is the wrong word, you know, kind of discourse around what is true and not true. I think that most of the folks listening to this podcast don’t sit there. I mean, we’re called The Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide. We talk about skeptics and outliers, like we are purposefully leaning into folks who are willing to push back against the status quo. But I think when you’re really kind of, this is where I sit, this is my lane. And this is what I know. And I’m going to teach people what I know, it’s very comfortable. I think for folks who are are moving from early stage on, I think that the stuckness is not having enough perspectives or getting locked into places that are so misaligned, that you’re you aren’t able to replenish your resources. And so you’re in that same place, I think it’s I think it’s under resourced folks, honestly, are under motivated, folks.

Curt Widhalm 6:45
I’m gonna come back to this question as we go through things. And part of this conversation is something that we had talked about in our first Therapy Reimagined conference back in 2019, and kind of some of the developmental stages and that therapists go through and one of the things that happens when you have a weekly podcast that goes for four plus years is…

Katie Vernoy 7:11
Five years now.

Curt Widhalm 7:11
…five plus years. It goes on for a long time is we revisit topics, we read more, we’ve developed more of things, and we had no reason not to look at this information before it was out there. And what I’m talking about is there’s a series of stages that are described in William Perry’s scheme of intellectual and ethical development. And this is been around since the late 70s. When William Perry first developed this. It’s been updated a couple of times, and was really largely written around looking at how college students develop. But as I’ve revisited this recently, there’s a lot that what you’re talking about here seems to also describe what a lot of therapists tend to go through. I’m sure other people go through it too. But our focus on podcast here is therapists.

Katie Vernoy 7:20
Well and therapists are different therapists are special.

Curt Widhalm 8:10
So we’ll call this Curt Widhalm’s version of William Perry’s scheme of intellectual and ethical development for therapists.

Katie Vernoy 8:17
All right.

Curt Widhalm 8:20
As I’m not gonna make this episode about this model, but I think that there’s specific aspects that are described in here that we need to be aware of in ourselves, if we’re in a supervisory position. That we can help foster some of the conversation of the people that were mentoring, and also being able to create some space for our reactions and things. So a lot of what Perry talks about is this idea of dualism, that things are either one way or the other. Things are either right or wrong. Things are either the correct way or the incorrect way. And, you know, this is, you know, great black and white thinking, but it comes from this idea at its most basic stage, that all problems are solvable. And I think that that is something where…

Katie Vernoy 9:10
And this is early, the first stage.

Curt Widhalm 9:12
This is the very first stage.

Katie Vernoy 9:14
Okay. Okay. Just wanted to clarify, because I missed that. Okay.

Curt Widhalm 9:17
This is the very first stage. Everything is solvable. Get our first semester grad students out there, that’s just like, I need to ask the right questions and find the right answers. And then I will go out and do those things and things will be fixed.

Katie Vernoy 9:30

Curt Widhalm 9:31
And that is it, with some experience found out to be not what works in the world.

Katie Vernoy 9:39
No, no, not everything is fixable. Not everything is solvable.

Curt Widhalm 9:44
So moving past that basic duality, Perry describes full dualism, which is that recognition that some authorities disagree, and therefore it’s not about finding the right solutions, but it’s about finding the right authority to listen to and listen to their answers.

Katie Vernoy 10:02
Okay, so don’t don’t think seek anybody that disagrees with you just listen to the person you like.

Curt Widhalm 10:08
Right. So you know, if you think of any of the debates around which, you know, method or theory is the right one, this is the end all be all answer to everything.

Katie Vernoy 10:20

Curt Widhalm 10:20
This is kind of where some of that development ends up happening.

Katie Vernoy 10:25
So this is only stage two, though. How many are there?

Curt Widhalm 10:28
There’s like nine.

Katie Vernoy 10:30
And it’s really early on. So folks that are still like EMDR is the only way to go are stuck in stage two. I’m just want to make sure I’m clear.

Curt Widhalm 10:40
I mean, yeah.

… 10:42
(Advertisement Break)

Curt Widhalm 10:42
Moving into stage three, this is called early multiplicity. So this is starting to look at, oh, there are two kinds of problems, those whose solutions we know. And those whose solutions we don’t know yet. You know, the research doesn’t back this up yet. Now, the ironic thing is, this early multiplicity sort of thing is still basic duality.

Katie Vernoy 11:03
Okay. I know things or I don’t know things.

Curt Widhalm 11:06

Katie Vernoy 11:07
But it’s getting to there are things I don’t know. There are things I don’t know that I don’t know.

Curt Widhalm 11:12
Right. Now, this is where we’re going to really spend a lot of our time talking as far as how we are currently seeing some of the problems and the solutions to the things that we identified at the top of the episode here. And this is Perry, stage four, this is called late multiplicity, which recognizes that most problems are of solutions that we don’t know yet.

Katie Vernoy 11:12

Curt Widhalm 11:12
And therefore, everyone has a right to their opinion, and some problems are unsolvable. And therefore, it doesn’t matter what you choose. This is really more of where the task is to be able to sit through and be comfortable in the uncomfortableness of is this a problem without a solution? Is this a problem that has a solution that I can only partially solve with the skills and tricks and tools that I have? It’s really before fully accepting the context of here is what is capable and what my role is in this. This is an uncomfortable space, because inherent in this is kind of this, like giving up if it becomes like, I can’t fix everything. Well, everyone has a right to their own opinion on things. Now, that’s kind of this dismissive. Like, alright, you’re, you’re an internal family systems person, fine, you can have your opinion on things. That’s not what I do you, you know, you go do you, I’m still going to, you know, try and fix all of these problems with the tools that I have, rather than being able to kind of be like, alright, I can sit with some aspects of this are still not going to be solvable with the tools that even the both of us end up having.

Katie Vernoy 13:00
Yes. Okay. So we’re gonna come back to that one, because that’s, I think we’re a lot of people sit, is that what you’re saying? Yeah. Okay, but I want to get through all the mod, I want to see where I land. I’m so excited to hear,

Curt Widhalm 13:11
You know, I’m going to quickly go through the rest of this stage five contextual relativism: all proposed solutions are supported by reason, they must be viewed in context and relative to support. Some solutions are better than others, depending on the context. At this stage, the task is to learn how to evaluate solutions.

Katie Vernoy 13:28
Stage five, is the “it depends” stage.

Curt Widhalm 13:31

Katie Vernoy 13:32

Curt Widhalm 13:33
Stage six is pre commitment. This is making choices committing to a solution. Stages, seven through nine is following through on the solution, evolving commitments, taking the experience of having made that decision and using that to refine future processes, and reflection and growth on it.

Katie Vernoy 13:52
Okay, so all of a sudden, it switched from like stages to how do you solve a problem like Maria?

Curt Widhalm 13:59
It’s, it’s really word of kind of positions within this. So…

Katie Vernoy 14:05
Got it got it. Okay. So basically, people get more and more able to sit with uncertainty, they do more and more assessment of what they don’t know. And then potentially, they also use their own experience to refine what they do know, and continue forward and kind of assess things and make sure they’re doing some sort of quality control and feedback.

Curt Widhalm 14:32
But I want to focus on this position four this late multiplicity, because I see that this is where a lot of people are not comfortable with that uncomfortableness.

Katie Vernoy 14:44

Curt Widhalm 14:45
And Perry goes on to describe that there’s a couple of things that ended up happening here. One is people try to regress to an earlier stage. If they don’t know what the solution is, then it’s just kind of this “Fine, tell me what to do.”

Katie Vernoy 15:02
Yeah, yeah.

Curt Widhalm 15:04
You know, this the the teenager that you might be sitting with in your session, or if you’re a parent your own kids that just if you’re trying to get that deeper level of thinking where it’s like, alright, if you commit to this strategy, think about these consequences. Are these the ones that you have? Oh, fine, I’m not going to pick that one. I’m gonna pick this other one. Well, did you think about the consequences that might happen with this one? Well, you’re just gonna come up with wrong answers for everything that I do. Fine, you just tell me what to do.

Katie Vernoy 15:31
Yeah, and it’s hugely uncomfortable, right? Because it’s taking a risk and not knowing if the answer is going to be what you want, right? Like there are risks involved in committing to these things when there’s not just a single right answer.

Curt Widhalm 15:46

Katie Vernoy 15:47
And so you’re saying then folks regress back to Okay, well, then tell me the right answer. Or I’m just not going to do anything.

Curt Widhalm 15:55
Right. Some people want to back off. And I see that this is where maybe some of that rigidity ends up coming from is there is safety in just having dualistic black and white answers. If there is a policy by somebody who I have followed and prescribed to, I will sit and follow that policy, because there is safety and I can pass the responsibility on to it’s the model’s fault. It’s the Guru’s fault. It’s the agency director’s fault, because this is their policy. And all I did was follow the policy.

Katie Vernoy 16:29
Well, and I think even I’ve seen it, folks go into Facebook groups and say I had this weird thing happen. What do I do? And sometimes folks are responding with more nuanced answers. But sometimes folks are coming back and saying, well make your policy more rigid and hold to it. And, and I think that there’s a continuum there, there’s definitely like, hold your boundaries, set a policy and hold your boundaries. But it’s like, if your client, you know, cancels at 23 hours and 52 minutes before the session, every time you must charge for that I didn’t do the 24 hour cancellation. And it’s like, Yes, I understand that there is a need to hold a policy, and that is against the policy. But there may be reasons why you don’t. And there is some nuance, and you may make the right decision sometimes, and you may make the right decision or the wrong decision sometimes. But I think there’s that element of get more rigid, be very clear so that your clients know exactly what to expect, which is to a certain extent, I agree. But also make it so that you don’t have to make a decision each time something happens because that’s too hard. It could be wrong. So strict policy.

Curt Widhalm 17:43
As an educator, the way that I look at this is we are so steeped in systems where we need to lay out exactly what to do at all times. The frustrating part of creating rubrics for assignments in classes is really just kind of, if I spell everything out into very specific behavioral descriptions of what needs to be included for each part of the assignment, it sometimes ends up sucking the spirit out of the assignments, and just being more of Did you meet these wrote parameters to be able to make this not uncomfortable as far as trying to figure out the learning process for themselves?

Katie Vernoy 18:27

Curt Widhalm 18:28
And I think that this is a really important thing to recognize whether you’re a supervisor or a student in development, is that part of the process of growing up and getting through these things is being better at sitting with some ambiguity.

Katie Vernoy 18:45
Yeah. Yeah.

Curt Widhalm 18:47
And if we, as supervisors and mentors try to rescue our students are supervisees from being uncomfortable, we’re actually stunting their developmental growth by just providing them with the answers.

Katie Vernoy 19:04
Yeah, I think that’s a really strong point. Because I think there’s, this can happen all the way up the chain. Right?

Curt Widhalm 19:10
Absolutely. Yeah.

Katie Vernoy 19:11
You know, clinicians giving that kind of advice or feedback or support to their clients. So they don’t have to sit with discomfort, that and supervisors giving that to the therapist, and then supervision of supervision providing that to supervisors. And I think that’s the thing I see a lot in some of these Facebook groups too, is someone, and I think this speaks to your mental gymnastics thing is, someone will say, Hey, I did this thing. And there’s times when everybody comes back, that’s unethical. You shouldn’t have done it. Or if I could go back in time, I would have started it this way. Like people are wanting to say you did the wrong answer. But the mental gymnastics part, I see a lot of people, reassuring the person that they’ve done the thing exactly right. Trust your instincts. You know, I’m sure that this was going on and so this is why you implemented this rule. You know, it’s like those types of things where people, you know, again, we can talk a million times about how social media doesn’t allow for context. But I think there’s that element of, I just want to reassure you that what you did is okay.

Curt Widhalm 20:14
And I think that it also speaks to being able to provide the context of largely who is on social media. That a lot of times, we see the people who are posting, being at this stage of development, where it’s, I want to be able to provide the answers for everybody here, I want to get my name out in the community, I am being helpful in the way that I know how to be helpful, which I think a lot of more fully developed clinicians would be not looking to be posting where their conundrums are into these groups. That they would be going to other people who can help slow down the process and be able to tease things out. And so what ends up happening is that a lot of the Facebook groups that you and I complain about, and, frankly, scour just for content to be able to create episodes out of is largely populated by earlier career people looking for more dualistic answers of I need an answer to sit with that is right for me, just tell me what to do. And so a lot of even the prompts that are getting missed are not representative of the entire field, it’s largely in my opinion of people at kind of a very specific point in their academic, ethical, intellectual development.

Katie Vernoy 21:36
Well, I think that’s, I think that can be true, I think that there are definitely groups I’ve seen where there has been deeper conversations that go into more of this nuance. And it does require super long posts and super long responses. And it requires a different type of folk to actually engage and stay engaged with those types of posts. And so I think that there probably is a broad array of folks that are engaging in these things. And I have seen later career therapists come in and try to give a little bit of nuance or, or kind of point out some of this dualistic thinking and like, Wait, did you consider this part of it? You know, I do think that by and large, that element of folks on social media providing these dualistic answers is problematic. It really gets to a place where folks really feel like, if there’s any kind of question or something where they don’t feel comfortable in their own skin, they’re going to a place where they can get and I think we’ve said this in our bad, bad social media advice, but they can go and get that micro validation, right? That…

Curt Widhalm 22:43

Katie Vernoy 22:44
And oftentimes, it’s risky, because other times they can get that immediate, you are unethical, you didn’t put enough stuff. So you were horrible and bad. And you should stop seeing clients and all of that stuff. And so it’s a dangerous space, because then people, I would imagine, would regress even further and not really dig into these gray areas to these unsolvable problems, or these problems that are not solved with the current tools and skills. I think it’s that element of we need to have deeper conversations, not these rigid, tiny little conversations about what we should do and not do.

… 23:21
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Curt Widhalm 23:21
Now, there’s another thing that people do at this stage. If they don’t regress. They rebel. And according…

Katie Vernoy 23:31
You and me.

Curt Widhalm 23:33
In aspects of things. And, according to Perry, this is that with realization that authorities are fallible and easy generalization follows, where authorities don’t have all of the answers that makes everyone’s opinion equally valid. Yeah, this person, this theory was wrong in this one specific instance. So therefore, it is wrong all across the board.

Katie Vernoy 23:58
Ah, okay. So not just rebelling against this dualistic thinking, rebelling against like a particular thing like, I give up. That’s not right. Nothing is right.

Curt Widhalm 24:09
Perry goes on to say that students typically are struggling to assert some sort of independence in this stage. And it doesn’t even need to make sense in any sort of logical way to get stuck in this rebellious stage. That there’s a lot of personal bias that can end up coming in. It’s very subjective. What students end up happening here, or kind of at this developmental stage that we see in some of the Facebook groups is, if somebody can’t prove me wrong, then that means that I’m right.

Katie Vernoy 24:44
Ah, well, I see this, I hate to say it, but I see this in really rigid thinking with folks who are in advocacy and potentially even whether it’s social justice movements or what you and I might consider or hate movements, like, I think there’s that you can’t prove me wrong. So I am right. And you’re wrong and evil, and I am against you.

Curt Widhalm 25:08
Yes, this can also end up being just kind of where quantity gets confused with quality. There’s not quite that ability to look at what might be the criticisms of my type of thinking. And so it just becomes kind of this emotionally driven, like, I’m right, because my feelings inform me being right. You’re wrong, because you don’t have the answers here. But I want to get to kind of the last thing in Perry here, which is that if people aren’t regressing, if they’re not rebelling, then they just play the game. And that’s, we just tell people what they want to hear, like, Oh, I’m just gonna, I’m just gonna fall in line, I’m gonna give the right answers in these certain areas, even if I don’t fully agree with it. But where this ultimately comes down, and kind of bringing this back to which of these messages in our fields do you choose to follow is being able to kind of recognize at this stage of any skill that you’re developing, and this is not just like, you make it past these stages, and you’re, you’re good to go forever. Like, if you learn a new skill, or a new theory, or you know, go to a great continuing education course, you’re likely going to run into a lot of these developmental things on these new areas that you’re learning about. So it’s getting to this point of, do I just follow what you tell me what to do? Do I rebel and be like, No, this is the right way to do things? Do I just say, okay, you know, person leading this, I’m just going to do exactly what you say, then I’m gonna go do my own things off on the side anyway. That’s kind of its own form of rebellion.

Katie Vernoy 26:16

Curt Widhalm 26:31
It’s, then it’s kind of testing out your thoughts and being able to reevaluate, oh, I’ve committed to this, these are the mistakes that I’ve made along the way, these are the things that I’m doing to better add more context to each of these situations. So that way, I can go more slowly through this. So getting back to rigidity, getting back to some of these policies sorts of things, you and I have both learned, like telling people, Hey, don’t be rigid about this has improved approximately 0% of anybody in our field.

Katie Vernoy 27:27
I think that’s a pretty rigid way to describe that. I think probably we’ve helped a lot of people.

Curt Widhalm 27:33
I think we’ve given people the space to take in that message, which allows for them to move on from that. But strictly just telling people, Hey, you’re doing this wrong, reinforces fall in line, go back to one of those earlier developmental stages, rather than play through the consequences on this. What would it be like to only adhere to this very strict policy. And I think that when we tend to grow up in this field, if we aren’t given the space to be able to kind of start thinking for ourselves, that we tend to mentor in the ways that we were mentored. And if this just becomes one generation of rigid mentor ships to the next. And that’s just what gets passed down. I think that that’s part of what contributes to our field here is that this just becomes the rigid leading the rigid.

Katie Vernoy 28:27
I agree. I think that even in the way you’re describing it, though, I think we it doesn’t take that far enough. I think, when we’re looking at how do we, and we have a whole episode on making decisions, but when we, when we look at how we’re going to come into our own, I think it really speaks to critical thinking. If somebody is saying do this, I always go to the question that I’ve gone to probably since I was 12. Why? Why should I do that? Maybe it was five? I don’t know, I’ll have to ask my mom. But like, I think there’s that element of understanding the process element of it, rather than the content element, which is what therapists are good at, I think if we understand why we’re doing what we’re doing, or why this is being recommended, or what the point is, of what it is that’s being taught or instructed, we can then get to a space where we can actually almost not start from scratch, but start from a place of do I align with this? Why? Do I align with what’s trying to be done here? And if so, is there another way I can do it if this instruction doesn’t work for me, right? And so it becomes this deeper thought about what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. And gives us some space to be a little bit more nuanced. For example, cancellation policies. Why do we do cancellation policies? Some people it may be if I don’t have a cancellation policy, people will just come and not come No matter what, and it’ll be, they’ll take advantage of me, right? Or, you know, and it has this, this feel of the client is somehow needing to be minded and monitored or, or they will, or they will take advantage of me, right. For some folks, it’s financially I need that spot to be filled. And so this is just a business decision. For some folks, it’s a clinical decision for I mean, there’s a lot of different reasons why people might have a certain cancellation policy. Now most of us have have probably gone to the de facto 24 hours. And I think that probably deserves some assessment, if that works for you. But the reason that you have the policy is more important than then, do I follow it or not, in some ways. And so I think getting to what your reasons are, because I know my cancellation policy has completely changed since COVID. If somebody didn’t cancel within 24 hours, and it was sick, I would charge them. I don’t charge them now, because I don’t want them coming into my office sick, I might recommend let’s do, are you up for a virtual session. But I’m certainly not going to require them to do a virtual session. And I’m not going to charge them if they’re sick.

Curt Widhalm 31:18

Katie Vernoy 31:18
Now, if they’re constantly sick, and there’s, you know, and they’re like, Oh, well, they’ll just take advantage of you. Right? I think if it gets to that place, I think then you start assessing these things. But I think people get so caught up in kind of rigid thinking and just doing it because it needs to be done. And then having a power struggle over what they haven’t really thought through why they’re doing it and how they’re doing it. I think that’s the part that worries me. And so, to me, it’s about okay, what is actually being talked about here? And is there a different solution that works more for me and how it lines up for me. And so that’s a longer conversation than we have time for here. I think to me, being able to take a breath, and actually assess what is it that’s even being discussed here, I think that pulls you even further back from let me try this out and test it out. I think that stage two, not stage one.

Curt Widhalm 32:11
This is stuff that we’ve talked about in a number of our episodes, maybe not this explicitly. Tou know, the being able to look at the hows and the whys of what you’re doing. Rules are for the profession, they’re not for you as the individual. That you can advocate for better access to care, while not being the one who takes shoulders the responsibility for it. You can work within a difficult work environments, going back to the toxic work environments episode and still be able to find some space for yourself. You don’t need to shoulder the responsibility of fixing the broken system. But you can still also find ways to thrive there. You can post stuff on social media bad Social Media Episode. That is, without looking at it turns into Oh, this only makes sense within this one specific thing. I’m not looking at how I’m thinking about things. So this is really maybe the takeaway of just kind of think about how you’re thinking about things because there might be the unintended consequences, there might be just kind of the grasping onto what feels safe. But sitting with that discomfort is ultimately what makes you as the individual better and us as the profession better.

Katie Vernoy 33:30
I feel like I’m kind of saying yes, recreate the wheel.

Curt Widhalm 33:36
It’s not necessarily recreate the wheel. It’s evaluates is the wheel still in good shape?

Katie Vernoy 33:44
Does a wheel work for my for my vehicle?

Curt Widhalm 33:46

Katie Vernoy 33:49
All right.

Curt Widhalm 33:50
So we would love to hear from you. You can follow us on our social media, you can join our modern therapists Facebook community, you can reach out to us on our websites where you can find our show notes And if you like our content, you want to find ways to support us. You can consider becoming a patron or support us on Buy Me a Coffee and until next time, I’m Curt Widhalm with Katie Vernoy.

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