Moving Beyond Validation

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Welcome to Format Free Fridays at, the one day a week when I break the format of answering your questions and I dispense that which we rarely welcome in life: Unsolicited advice.

I’m dedicating today’s post to my colleagues, my fellow shrinks; to those I know, but most importantly, to those I don’t know.

Colleagues, we have a problem in our field, and those who bear the burden of this problem are our clients.  You see, we are taught to validate our clients’ feelings, their experiences and their thoughts.  And we do this better than anyone else.  Our clients come into our offices and tell us outrageous stories of how their worlds have wronged them, and we respond by confirming how awful they must feel, we connect those feelings of being wronged to why their lives are off track today…and that ‘s the space in which most of their sessions exist for the duration of their therapy.  And I’m here to tell you that we harm our clients if this is the only space they occupy during their weekly sessions.

There is a missing link in our profession.  If we do not teach clients how to move beyond feeling validated, how to take responsibility for their lives and how to forgive themselves and those who have wronged them, I believe we set them up for a lifetime of victimization.  And I’m going to say with absolute certainty that none of us are taught how to do this in graduate school.

Colleagues, we have a responsibility to continue our training throughout the duration of our careers, to research when our clients are stuck, to find solutions.  And if you haven’t learned how to facilitate the skill of forgiveness, I’m telling you that you haven’t learned how to facilitate healing.  And if you’re not able to help your clients’ heal, you need to learn how.

Spend 30 days researching forgiveness (which has become an entire field of study) and other specific types of therapies that go beyond validation, such as Positive Psychology and Imago Therapy.  Pick one, and commit to being trained in it over the next 12 months.  Your clients deserve to have a beginning, middle and an end to their therapy.  And they deserve to walk away with the tools necessary for sustainable change.