Interview with The Good Therapists and Author Alison Crosthwait
About Alison: Alison is a Registered Psychotherapist in private practice in Toronto, ON. She is a Chartered Financial Analyst and spent fifteen years in trading and research in capital markets. In 2007 she went back to school to become a psychotherapist. Alison believes that healing herself is the most important part of her service and her journey of self-growth and understanding is long and varied. In 2015 she started her blog and has been writing weekly articles ever since. In 2017 she hosted her first workshop and looks forward to doing much transformational group work in the years ahead. Alison spends as much time as she can on her farm east of Toronto with her husband, tiger-striped cat, and many other two and four legged neighbours.
OnlineCounselingPrograms.com] When and why did you originally create The Good Therapists?
[Alison Crosthwait] I created The Good Therapists in January 2015. It was quite a spiritual experience. I felt a rush of energy in the direction of public writing. As I wrote the first post my voice came together—that the blog was about saying something without defining anything. It is about facilitating the growth and thinking of my readers. To this day I maintain this tension between sharing my thinking and the awareness of the process of the reader on the “other side” of the page.
[OnlineCounselingPrograms.com] What do you hope to achieve by maintaining your blog?
[Alison Crosthwait] For myself, the blog is a form of creative expression that is deeply satisfying. And I get to connect with readers and to hopefully work with them in process workshops in the future as this part of my offering grows. More broadly, I hope to share the practice of psychotherapy. Which is the practice of thinking integrated with feeling. Psychotherapy as I practice it goes far beyond symptom relief. It is about what is possible for the human being. It is so relevant for so much of what people struggle with and I write to share this possibility with as many people as possible.
[OnlineCounselingPrograms.com] In your post, “One of the Challenges of Making Progress in Therapy,” you explore the sense of stagnation that both therapists and clients feel when sessions no longer conclude with a sense of having “gotten somewhere.” How do you move forward with your client after this impasse?
[Alison Crosthwait] This is when the work deepens. And it is important that I as a therapist name this and describe what is happening from my perspective and ask the client what is happening for them. If we don’t talk about it the client will likely leave therapy thinking they got all they could get out of it. They may leave with a vague sense of dissatisfaction. But when we can talk about where we are—the gains that have been made and the place we find ourselves now, we can talk about what this impasse looks and feels like and experience it for what it is—which will be different for each person. As we stay with it it will shift. It’s all about staying with the experience of the client moment to moment, session to session.
[OnlineCounselingPrograms.com] Your blog has a distinctly poetic tone. Is this a conscious decision on your part, or did you start writing like that naturally?
[Alison Crosthwait] It happened naturally—straight out of my unconscious. In school I didn’t like having to explain everything—building and argument step by step. Life is more complicated than that. And in this blog I’m not looking to prove anything, rather, I am speaking to the conscious and the unconscious of my readers. By writing what I hear, from a place in me that has wisdom beyond explanations, I try to convey something of the inner experience—which doesn’t always make rational sense and certainly doesn't think or act in a straight line.
[OnlineCounselingPrograms.com] Are there any topics you find yourself returning to in your posts? If so, what are they, and why do you think they hold your attention?
[Alison Crosthwait] Great question. I write about change—that it doesn’t look like you think it’s going to look, or feel like you think it’s going to feel. How the process of change is uncomfortable. I write about thinking—having our own thoughts—being connected to our own thinking. These are two themes I am seem to come back to. Another one would be talking with your therapist about everything that comes up in the therapy—this one I know why I write—because people are so often afraid to say how they feel to their therapist. When really—if you are furious that I am leaving on vacation—I want to hear it! It’s meaningful and valuable for our work. And I can take it! So I really encourage people to talk with their therapists—it takes the work forward in inestimable ways. As for change and thinking. Well, I grew up in an environment where thinking for myself was not fostered. There was a narrow band of thinking that happened. And through therapy I came to enjoy my own thinking—to see its value—and I have become fascinated with how our culture claims to think but actually does a lot of parroting and how “education” is rarely about thinking. My reason for writing about change is similar. To heal myself I have had to make huge changes. They don’t feel like you think they would feel. They cost a lot. There’s a lot of uncertainty and discomfort along the way. Our culture is saturated with advertising that makes it look easy and I feel it is so important to understand that our lives are more like a mythic quest than they are a Super Bowl commercial.
[OnlineCounselingPrograms.com] What do you think has been your biggest influence in shaping you into the therapist you are today?
[Alison Crosthwait] There are so many. And that’s a very deep question—worth a lifetime’s consideration! I am going to say my therapist Kim. I saw her from 2004-2011. She died of cancer in 2013. She took me in as her client when I was a very confused young woman. And she cherished me. Not in a sweet soft way—she was challenging—but she always listened and considered what I had to say. She advocated for my best self. She enjoyed me. She didn’t have an agenda for me. She introduced me to the world of psychotherapy and in 2007 I followed her footsteps into training to by a therapist. Now that I am a therapist I can see what she did for me—how it isn’t easy to be there reliably—emotionally or schedule-wise. She showed up for me week after week year after year. There was so much left unfinished between us. But I carry her with me and sometimes can feel her in me as I work with certain clients. I know the power of the relationship and I how I don’t have to be perfect. I just work with an open heart, hour after hour, showing the care that I have been shown. All the other theories and techniques are extras.
[OnlineCounselingPrograms.com] Thinking about the title of your blog, what should one look for in a “good therapist”?
[Alison Crosthwait] By the title I mean to raise exactly this question—what does it mean to be a good therapist? A good therapist is present and reliable. A good therapist focuses on you. As Kim said to me many years ago, “We’re going on a tour of your house. You know the rooms and you show me. I might have thoughts as we go through the rooms but it’s your house.” Your therapy is about illuminating your world—not taking on someone else’s. Finally, a good therapist is doing their own work on themselves. They are growing and in touch with themselves—this is a crucial part of their work with you so they know what is theirs and so they are able to help you navigate the difficult waters of change because they are there themselves.
[OnlineCounselingPrograms.com] Is there anything else you’d like to add?
[Alison Crosthwait] I feel honoured to be on this list and to be asked such excellent questions. Thank you for the work you are doing promoting therapy. I believe therapy is one of the least understood practices for personal development and promoting therapy blogs is one way of helping people understand this powerful practice better and inspiring them to continue along in their therapies even when the going gets tough! In fact when therapy is tough—that means you’re doing the work!
Thank you, Alison! Learn more about The Good Therapists on our Top Therapy Blogs list.
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