Cedar Barstow, one of GoodTherapy.org’s longest-serving Topic Experts, has been developing, practicing, and teaching principles of ethics and responsible use of power for nearly two decades. She is the eighth contributor to be featured in our new “Meet the Topic Experts” column, designed to help readers and mental health practitioners get to know the people whose insight makes The Good Therapy Blog a trusted resource.
The founder and executive director of the Right Use of Power Institute and a Hakomi experiential psychology trainer, Cedar has authored or co-authored two books examining the impact of power and ethics both inside and outside the therapy profession. Her articles for GoodTherapy.org—the first was published in January 2008—cover a broad spectrum of issues under the power and ethics umbrella, from how children with learning disabilities may be affected by ignorance among those in authority to the disempowering underpinnings of shyness and shame.
Cedar, whose private psychotherapy and ethics consulting practice is based in Boulder, Colorado, has a continuing education web conference scheduled for 9 a.m. on December 6, 2013, titled “Resolving Conflict and Repairing Relationships.” The presentation, good for 2.0 CE credits, is available for free to GoodTherapy.org members.
Ten questions we recently asked Cedar, along with her answers:
1. People often think they know what other people do in their work, but they’re usually off the mark. Name or describe one aspect of being a therapist that would surprise most people.
The courage, vulnerability, insight, and triumph that I experience daily with my clients move me deeply.
2. “Right use of power” is a theme in your work. How did it come to be?
Ethics is the right use of power. This idea shifted ethics from a “boring list of rules” to an exciting set of relationship dynamics, and an engagement with issues of personal and role power, influence, and impact. Wow.
3. If you had to specialize in another area of psychotherapy, what would it be and why?
Personal empowerment. Power is the ability to have an effect, or to have influence. We all have effect and influence. Working with how to use this influence for the healing and repair of harm and the promotion of well-being is compelling and invaluable.
4. What do you enjoy most about being a therapist?
Feeling and cheering for the positive changes that my clients make.
5. Outside the office, how do you spend your time? Any hobbies or interests of note?
Travel, movies, gardening, carpentry, reading, hiking, massage, spiritual practice, and writing.
6. What advice would you offer to a young person considering a career as a therapist?
Have some experience as a client and interview some seasoned therapists.
7. If you could do anything with your life other than what you’re doing now, and money was no object, what would it be?
I’d like to be a philanthropist making decisions about how to best use the available billions to have the largest impact on helping the world be kinder and more sustainable.
8. Who do you look up to? Any inspirations inside or outside the field of psychology?
Bill and Melinda Gates, the Dalai Lama, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Michelle and Barack Obama, Barbara Marx Hubbard, Nelson Mandela, Elizabeth Cogburn … I could go on, but you get the picture.
9. What’s the biggest hurdle to increasing mental health awareness?
The American ideal of self-sufficiency and independence that results in prejudice against needing emotional help—i.e., if you are having mental health issues, it must be your fault.
10. How can therapists foster and inspire trust in potential clients?
My experience is that I need to “earn” the trust of my clients by demonstrating my trustworthiness and faithful understanding of their feelings and situation.
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