Trusting in your own wisdom


I recently had the need to consult a couple of experts on a medical question. In doing so I re-discovered a maxim:

we trust in our own expertise to solve problem.

Or, more colloquially, if what we have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. The psychiatrist puts her trust in her common tools. The neurosurgeon puts his trust in his scalpel. The neuropsychologist puts trust in the common diagnostic tools she uses.

Hmmm. I think I’m no different. I’d like to think that I’ll give my clients the right recommendation for treatment but when someone comes to me with a run-of-the-mill problem I must admit that I usually think I and my skills are up to the task.

Good care requires that I inform clients of other options. For example, if someone is depressed, I can provide counsel but they may wish to choose to see a psychiatrist for medication options. If a couple comes for therapy, I should inform them of the various kinds of therapy that might work equally well: EFT by a certified specialist, intensive Gottman style interventions (3 hour sessions every 3 weeks with lots of homework). Or, if a parent brings a child with ADHD like symptoms, do I suggest my style of intervention or do I recommend more careful diagnostics of a neuropsychologist’s exam? But even when we counselors tell clients of other options, they probably can tell we think fairly highly of our own counseling methods.

Don’t be surprised when surgeons want to use their knives, when oncologists want to ply their trade, or when nutritionists emphasize their health improving interventions. If you are seeking care, keep this human frailty in mind. And do be sure to ask more questions when you are seeking the best path for solving your problem.

2 Comments

Filed under christian psychology, Insight

2 responses to “Trusting in your own wisdom

  1. Joy

    We all ought to apply our own expertise (or wisdom) with humility and give our best to those who come to us for help. Although there might be other good options, we are only obligated to offer what we have. It is good to be confident and believe that our tools are up to the task when they are. We wouldn’t want to see a therapist for couples counseling who doesn’t believe in their own expertise. If someone is not qualified, that is a different matter. In that case, they should make a referral. It’s also good to be open, learn, and expand in our knowledge and skills. What we have to offer is uniquely ours because we are all so different. No two doctors or therapists are the same. So believing in our ourselves and relying on God’s wisdom will help us be most effective.

  2. Great reminder, Phil — thank you!

    I’ve always loved that hammer/nail quote — recently I discovered it was attributed to Abe Maslow. Appropriate.

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