“It’s dangerous to go alone. Take this.”

Tev Zukor Ph.D

That iconic opening is the first line in The Legend of Zelda, the 1986 video game starring Link, as he goes on an epic journey to save the princess. While Link is an adventurer, not a psychologist, and the gift being offered is a sword, rather than the collective wisdom of colleagues; being a group psychologist operating in collegiate mental health is not that different from our pointy-eared friend. We seek adventure and new journeys with our clients, but we must always ground our work in the wisdom of those that have done it before.

              For all of my loyal readers – both of you (It would be more, but my mom passed many years ago) – I implore you to find other colleagues who understand your journey.  As group psychotherapists, we know the power of being able to lean on other people for support and guidance.  Yet, the work of most clinicians can often feel isolating and individualized. That is why, if at all possible, I strongly recommend you seek out a consultation group.  Find other clinicians that you can trust and count on. Rely on collected wisdom to make the best decisions. While a situation may be new to us; it is likely that colleagues have experienced similar circumstances before and have learned hard lessons as a result. Let those lessons inform us on how to best serve our clients in the moment and avoid the mistakes of others.

              As someone who spends much of their time working with trainees who are learning how to be good clinicians, I encourage them to always learn from those who have come before.  To borrow from Sir Isaac Newton, learn how to stand on the shoulders of giants. In hockey, Wayne Gretzky was known as “The Great One” for his prowess and accomplishments on the ice.  When asked the secret to his success, he once replied that there are only three things to remember – “Anticipate, anticipate, anticipate.” When I train new clinicians, I share this anecdote, but replace his answer with “Consult, consult, consult.” Not only is consultation the best defense in the courtroom; where the standard of clinical competency is usually measured in “consistency with accepted practice;” but it also helps us navigate our blind spots in the best service of our clients.  Consulting with colleagues who have more space and distance from a situation often allows for the clearest and cleanest interventions. We do the best work when we’re informed by the work that has already been done.

              Like many of us in the mental health profession, I often operate on the old adage, “Do as I say; not as I do.”  However, this is one of those times where I not only talk the talk, but also walk the walk.  I have been in a consultation group for a little over 10 years.  While the names of my colleagues are being withheld to protect the innocent (and I wouldn’t want them to be forced to have their name associated with mine without their explicit consent); I have met weekly – through the power of Zoom (and Skype before that) – with three other psychologists who have been a constant presence and support for me through no shortage of work-related consultations, difficult life journeys, and a few professional transitions. I have consulted about nuanced clinical issues that have affected both me and my colleagues.  As group therapists, we know the power of the group to improve lives and I have been fortunate to live and experience that very journey. When my consultation group first began, I knew my other three group members as steady, grounded professionals who shared the goal of always wanting to do the best by their clients.  In the decade that has followed, I am now honored to call these three colleagues some of my closest friends and companions.  This group has been there when I have transition jobs, when I’ve felt wronged by systems or people, and when I’ve needed a shoulder to lean on during challenging times.  I am hopeful, and optimistic, that the members of my consultation group would say the same about me. 

              I also got one of my most memorable life experiences as a result of this group. The celebrate our 10-year anniversary; we all took a trip to Cancun, Mexico. I not only got to visit a new culture (at least for me) and make many wonderful memories while enjoying some of the most beautiful beaches and swimming in the pristine ocean waters. More importantly, I was able to share this journey with three of the best and brightest our profession has to offer.  I will always remember this trip fondly; in no small part because of the colleagues I was spending time with on this shared adventure.  While I can’t promise that participating in a consultation group will always lead to fabulous, exotic vacations; I also can’t rule it out.

              I can honestly say that my experience in a consultation group has been one of the most rewarding professional experiences I’ve ever had.  I’m been able to make friends with people that I might not have otherwise known.  I’ve been to some of their homes, I’ve witnessed their families expand, and I’ve been able to sit with them in times of grief and loss. When I think about my long professional journey (which is hopefully far from over); it is inexorably linked with my affiliation to this consultation group.


              One of my favorite plays is Hamlet.  I have always strongly identified with the titular “Melancholy Dane.”  While I’m not Danish, I have certainly been accused of no shortage of melancholy in my life.  When life feels too complicated, family dynamics are strained beyond repair, and the desire for vengeance on those who have wronged you start to creep up, the lessons of Hamlet are powerful. To paraphrase from the great bard, William Shakespeare – While I have no interest in anyone joining a convent, I wholeheartedly subscribe to the notion of “Get thee to a Consultation Group!!”.

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