â€śThe analysand can do no wrong because he can do no right,â€ť R. Schafer said. It seems to be the reverse for therapists. They are highly loyal to their mistakes and not very motivated to report them.
After all these years of clinical work, there have been only a few occasions that I did not regret either having said something in a session, or not having said something and thereby missing an opportunity. As soon as a patient walks in, I feel a kind of anxious anticipation, not knowing what will present itself thereafter. This attitude of expectancy is natural, even good, as the clinician comes prepared for a mutual adventure, similar to chess master Savielly G. Tartakowerâ€™s remark on the gameâ€™s opening position: â€śMistakes are all there to be made.â€ť [The incorrectness of the bullfight is what makes it appealing.]
Common mistakes can occur across a very broad spectrum â€• from devastating to the patient to embarrassing to the therapist. For example, the therapist can create a chaotic situation by not getting patientsâ€™ negative feelings out of their hiding places, by too early interpretation, by interpreting the meaning of what the patient says before addressing his or her resistance, or by interpreting the resistance before it is fully developed. Less chaotic, but more embarrassing, mistakes are related to not gathering all of the relevant information before offering recommendations. A recently divorced friend of mine told me that a consultant therapist had spent the entire first session on his immediate reasons for treatment. After an initial consultation that was largely devoted to descriptive details of the patientâ€™s clinical symptoms of anxiety and depression, including periods of inactivity and boredom, the therapist recommended that he take up some hobbies â€• â€ślike playing a musical instrument.â€ť The only problem with this otherwise reasonable advice was that my friend was already a professional pianist!