Time: Preconditions and principles for obtaining mastery
Updated: Feb 4
So you wanna be a better counselor?: Part 3
Precondition #2: Time
Mastery isn’t for everyone. It takes time. A lot of time. How much time? Malcolm Gladwell says 10,000 hours. That number is based off of scientist Anders Ericsson’s work on expertise. That answer sounds kinda cliché though. Most of us don’t really think through what that means.
A buddy of mine put in the time and became a master therapist. He had nearly a 80% success rate working with personality disorders. The other day I asked him what his training regiment looked like:
“Well I would video record all of my sessions.” He said.
“Then I’d watch my sessions.” He said.
“Yeah, so an hour per session.”
“Well a bit more because then I’d code my behavior according to the Facilitative Interpersonal Skills scale.” He said. “Then I’d code the client’s behavior according to the Experiencing scale.” He said.
“Whoa. Anything else?”
“Well then I’d spend time practicing new techniques with the video of the client. And of course giving clients outcome surveys and constantly looking at my data.” He said.
“That’s a lot of work. Like a LOT of work.”
“Yeah, it’s the kinda of work where you get into fights with your girlfriend for not spending enough time together.” He said.
Recording sessions. Watching tape. Coding his behavior. Coding the client’s behavior. Giving surveys and review data. Practicing new skills. That’s a lot of extra work. And no one paid him for that. This is the 10,000 rule in practice. It’s not about hitting a “magic 10,000 hour number”. The 10,000 hour rule is a way of saying, “the people who get really good at something put orders of magnitude more time into that thing than the rest of us.”
Most of us simply don’t have this kind of time, especially if it’s unpaid. We have kids to parent, and parents to care for, and gardens that need tending. We’re involved in church or community outreach or social justice causes. We have other things going on in our life than putting in the hours to become a master therapist. And that’s okay. I actually think the best way to move the field forward is not mastery, but developing better therapy tech.
So if you have better things to do, that’s okay.
However, if you’re among the few of us with the luxury of time, that’s what it takes.