Interview with Timothy Walsh, Licensed Professional Counselor/Psychotherapist
Timothy Walsh (TJ) is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) National Certified Counselor (NCC), practicing in-person in Philadelphia and online across Pennsylvania. He is also on faculty with the Counseling Psychology department at Eastern University, leading graduate courses and providing supervision in Couples Therapy for doctoral students in the school’s PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy program. TJ also holds a BFA in Graphic Design from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and is a painter and creator as well as a counselor.
1. What led you to pursue a career in counseling?
For much of my life I have been a person who has helped people walk through many of the challenges they face in life. Additionally, I feel my most whole when I’m in relationship with other people. I am also someone who has been saved by therapy and therapists in my past so I believe fully in its power to heal. I arrived at a crossroads where I was either going to pull inward and pursue my MFA or direct outward and pursue counseling psychology. Ultimately I realized that when I am focusing too much on me (as an MFA would require me to do), I become unfulfilled and self-destructive. I opted to pursue my graduate degree in counseling psychology and there was never a better decision made.
2. You were originally trained in psychodynamic therapy and have since added Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) to your practice. Can you give us a high-level overview of how a practitioner and client might decide which therapeutic approach is best?
Deciding on what approach fits for you as a clinician is a very personal journey. It’s important to become familiar with the major theories and modalities out there but know that all don’t fit everyone. I ultimately have moved toward attachment-based, somatic and experiential modalities because they fit my personality and I also truly believe in attachment as the core of our human existence – good and bad. Clients tend to hear about the approaches that are well “advertised.” CBT or Gottman (for couples) are two that are often mentioned by clients seeking therapy but don’t truly know where to begin. At the end of the day, it’s important for you as a clinician to be confident in what you do, your ability to help, and your empathy to help a client understand how you hear what they’re saying and how you can help them with their concern.
3. What aspects of your education, experience, or personal background have been most helpful in your career?
My particular educational experience was invaluable to me in my development. Moreso, however, at this time my years historically and presently in my own personal therapy has been most helpful for me. Being in my own psychoanalysis holds a mirror up to me and helps guide me through my life’s journey, as well as helps me to be a better clinician. All therapists should be in therapy. I also have hired a very good supervisor to help me work through issues of countertransference and other difficult clinical issues that I face. Supervision is so important. Building a strong professional network is also something that has been earth-shifting for me.
4. You are a painter as well as a counselor and frequently work with those who have artistic and creative personalities. Do you ever incorporate art into your sessions with clients?
I do sometimes incorporate art into my sessions with clients when appropriate. This is especially true when a client needs to get in touch with their body – to remind their head that there is also a body attached to it.
5. What advice do you have for students who are feeling overwhelmed by a challenging course or course load?
It’s common for students to become overwhelmed. There is so much to learn and the time in school goes at such a fast clip. In addition, students tend to get hooked up on things that they shouldn’t be focused on while they are still students (licensure, certifications, etc.). I talk with my students all the time about taking things one day at a time, one hour at a time, one minute at a time. There is nothing else for you to worry about, truly, except for the present moment. I also work with my students to really put effort and energy into maintaining a routine of self-care. When we are feeling overwhelmed and overworked, it’s often our own health and wellbeing that goes out the window. This can’t be if we want to be successful in this field.
6. Is there any further advice you would share with those who are considering counseling as a career?
Get your own therapy. Take care of yourself first. Create and maintain boundaries.
Thanks to TJ for answering our questions and sharing his insights! To read more, visit his professional website.