Psychotherapy work can be isolating. Ultimately, it’s you alone in the room (or on the screen) with your clients. You’re making clinical judgments all the time, and it’s normal to sometimes wonder whether you made the “right” one or find yourself feeling stuck in your work with a client. You’re also hearing stories wrought with trauma and suffering that can leave you susceptible to compassion fatigue. But because of ethical guidelines around confidentiality, you can’t process your work with friends or family, and non-therapists don’t have the experience or expertise to be of much help anyway.
If they haven’t found one already, most therapists are probably aware of the possibility of joining a peer consultation group, at least theoretically. Some may hesitate, most likely out of concern that it won’t be worth their while. Peer consultation is not a requirement for licensure and so participation would be voluntary, and some therapists may be wary to voluntarily give up a block of their time that could be spent seeing clients, completing notes, or any number of other things.
On the fence? Here are 3 reasons to join a consultation group:
1. Provides a supportive setting to work through clinical and practical issues
Consultation groups offer a supportive and confidential environment where therapists can discuss the wide range of clinical and practical issues they encounter.
These groups offer not only professional support but also opportunities for relational connections to be made, helping therapists to feel less alone and more connected to peers who can relate to their experiences.
2. Prevents burnout
Psychotherapy work can be emotionally taxing. It’s critical that therapists focus on their own self-care to protect their mental health and prevent burnout. Finding a cohesive and supportive peer consultation group can be an important component of self-care for therapists.
3. Exposes you to new ideas and perspectives
Consultation groups are important not only to help therapists feel more connected, but also to help therapists continue learning and growing. Without exposure to perspectives outside your own, you may be more likely to become stuck in a clinical rut. Hearing the perspectives of and learning from the experiences of other therapists can help you to see challenging cases in a new light.
How to find a peer consultation group
Peer consultation groups can take on many forms: some have a designated leader who may or may not charge a fee for attendance, others are more casual with no designated leader so clinicians can share what’s on their mind more spontaneously.
Think about how regularly you’d like to meet with your peer group. Once or twice a month at minimum is probably ideal, as it allows the group to maintain a momentum. Regular meetings also allow group members to develop trust in one another so each member is comfortable sharing. The size of the group is also something to consider: smaller groups may feel more intimate and allow each group member more of an opportunity to speak, whereas a larger group could allow for more diversity and the opportunity to hear many different perspectives.
If you’re interested in joining a peer consultation group but you’re not sure where to start, try first reaching out to colleagues and asking if they are already involved in a group or would be interested in starting one. If you practice within a network, it’s possible there are already established peer consultation groups that you could ask to join or other clinicians like you who are looking to start one.
Once you’ve found a peer consultation group that feels like a great fit, you’ll likely find yourself wondering why you didn’t join one sooner. With the potential to improve not only your clinical skills but also your own professional and personal well-being, you’ll likely find the time you invest in peer consultation to be absolutely worth it.