What makes executive psychotherapy different from psychotherapy with the general population? What different approaches are useful or necessary for executive psychotherapy?
To answer those questions it is essential to consider how executives differ from others seeking psychotherapy.
Executives spend most of their working lives leading and managing others. Generally, executives have advanced people skills, extraordinary levels of patience with others, and much higher than average resilience to life’s problems. Typically, too, they have much higher levels of self-control, and tend to take a more self-responsible view of life. In terms of intellect, executives are generally better educated than the rest of the population, more knowledgeable, and crucially and normally, much more articulate. They operate, skillfully, in a highly complex and fast moving political environment.
That collection of factors has implications for the different approaches required for successful executive psychotherapy.
For any therapist to be credible with an executive in need of psychotherapy, s/he needs to be highly educated. There is a view that unless the psychotherapist is better educated than the executive that credibility will be harder to earn.
Again, on the credibility requirement, it is difficult to imagine an executive being comfortable with a psychotherapist who is not at least as articulate, if not more articulate than the executive.
Since executives have such advanced people skills, it is unlikely that an executive would feel that someone whose people skills were inferior to their own could possibly understand the nuance and subtelty that they have to engage in on a daily basis (and all the stresses that come with and from that). It is unlikely that a psychotherapist lacking in executive experience would be credible.
For many people in need of psychotherapy, the therapist spends much time persuading the client to do what the client already knows s/he needs to do in order to solve his/her problem, (see Jerome D Frank). By contrast, executives are already highly self-responsible. Treating an executive in the same way as a member of the general population is likely to lead to resentment and the break-down of the therapeutic relationship. When highly self-responsible people have a problem that brings them to executive psychotherapy other less obvious factors are usually involved.
The nuances and vagaries of the complex political environment in which executives operate is a mystery to most. It is unlikely that a person seeking executive psychotherapy would have much regard for a therapist who had never experienced senior level executive life, and thus would have little insight into the political dynamics therein.
If you need executive psychotherapy, it may be wise to check during the first contact you make with a potential therapist whether or not they are equipped to deal with the different demands made by executive psychotherapy. There are many psychotherapists, few with experience of executive life.
Please be aware, to better serve clients, you should expect to leave a message on voice mail, and ASAP thereafter your call will be returned.