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Jackie Schuld Art Therapy Blog

Navigating the Grey of Accessible Professionalism

I’m a therapist who writes essays about life as a therapist (such as the fear that comes with being a therapist), the mental health field (such as what I want for other art therapists), and common topics that arise in therapy (like wanting to be miraculously healed). When I write, I often intersperse my personal experiences to provide examples and deeper understanding.

My brother recently read one of my essays about grief and time, in which I share about my experience of grief since losing our mother eight years ago. He sent me a text afterward saying that he was impressed by my “accessible professionalism.”

He didn’t know it, but he provided me with a term I’ve been looking for.

"Accessible Professionalism" Watercolor by Jackie Schuld

In old conceptions of therapy, therapists were taught to be “blank slates” and not reveal a single thing about themselves or their personal lives. In my essay about the Invisible Therapist Myth, I explore why I’ve found this to be a harmful and ineffective approach to therapy.

At the same time, I don’t advocate for the opposite - where one shares anything and everything. There is an appropriate grey area and my brother named it: accessible professionalism.

In accessible professionalism, we use our intuition to discern when it is appropriate to share personal matters and when it is not. Our sharing is intended to enhance connection, understanding, and provide benefit in some way.

For example, when my clients are caught in a shame cycle about overthinking, I empathize with them and let them know they’re not alone. I also get stuck in overthinking at times. This mutual connection breaks them out of shame and allows for beneficial discussion of the topics at hand.

In my essay writing, I hope to embody the same principles of accessible professionalism. I’ve learned a lot as I’ve restructured my business to meet my own emotional, mental, and financial needs. I don’t know many therapists who have done the same, and thus I share about my experiences because I think they will be valuable to other therapists. I also know that if I can uplift other therapists, I can uplift the mental health field, which is at a crisis point.

I navigate the grey area by ensuring I avoid writing anything that could harm someone (such as disclosing someone’s identity, writing about a confidential conversation, or discussing a personal experience that the individual involved would be hurt to read).

I also do not write about topics that still feel personally raw or sensitive (I’d give examples, but that would defeat the point).

It is my hope that in writing and living as an accessible professional, I am accessible as a human. I’m not just some therapist whom others hold on an inappropriate pedestal. Other therapists understand how I reached where I am. My own clients understand I have (and continue) to navigate my own personal struggles.

I hope it brings true connection that encourages self-acceptance, growth, and change.


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