One of the components of Goal-Achieving Psychotherapy, the approach that I use in working with patients, is that the therapist is a role model. I have found that I can be most successful when I am feeling positive, healthy, competent, and clearly able to convey my desire to help. I have stated that it is important to convey to the patient that there is nothing I would rather be doing during the time of our session than working with her or him.
Aside from the content of the session, I believe that the image that I am able to project through role modeling contributes to patient growth. I know that some may regard this as controversial because some regard “image” as a 4-letter word that has 5 letters in it. But I believe that image is very legitimate and important.
Where image gets us into trouble is when an image that we construct – either internally or externally – does not conform to reality. Some marriages break down because we decide that a potential spouse meets an image that we created, and then we get disappointed when the person proves to be much different than the image. We may dislike our job and take another one because the image that we’ve created in our mind of the new job is so much better than the objective reality.
The most important image is the self-image because that determines both how you feel about yourself and how you present yourself to the rest of the world.
While some people have an overly inflated self-image, that doesn’t bother me too much. Others can generally see through it after awhile, and their reactions will generally bring that type of person “back to earth”. I think it’s relatively easy to do an attitude adjustment on an overly positive self-image. You don’t have to teach that type of person to think positively – but rather to modify positive thinking to fit reality.
A person with a negative self-image is much more of a concern. It not only impacts upon that individual’s mood and behaviors but also robs the world of the full range of his or her strengths and contributions.
Ask yourself, “What are the things that I really like about myself?” Don’t cop out by saying nothing. Then make certain to appreciate your strengths, virtues, and other positive characteristics. Also, commit yourself to changing those things that you don’t like. Build a self-image that you can be proud of and share with the rest of the world.
Everyone is capable of developing a positive self-image and sharing it with others by making your self-image and public-image congruent.
Ron Kaiser, Ph.D.