“Often Our Clients Are Telling Us What They Need, But We Are Listening With Our Own Agenda.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Colleen Mullen, Psy.D., LMFT. Dr. Mullen is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in San Diego. She is the founder of the Coaching Through Chaos Private Practice and Podcast. Her work focuses on helping people have exceptional relationships and thrive after trauma and addictions.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path as a doctor or healer?
I had a transformative experience with a therapist when I was a teenager. I knew then, that I wanted to be a therapist and hope to help others the way I was helped.
How have your personal challenges informed your career path?
In the work I do, I’ve had to work hard at “not brining it home”. Being a psychotherapist can often feel like I am volunteering myself to be a sponge to absorb my client’s problems. I figured out a long time ago how to leave work at work and take care of myself emotionally so that I don’t end up with vicarious trauma or career burnout.
I am passionate about helping my clients have great relationships because I believe no matter what a person has gone through, everyone can have a healthy relationship — but they often need to learn how to do it. I love helping people transform their relationships.
Can you share five pieces of advice to other doctors/clinicians/healers to help their patients to thrive?
- Listen deeply to what they tell you. Often our clients/patients are telling us what they need, but we are listening with our own agenda.
- Trust that they know themselves well. When you give them feedback and they don’t agree, ask them more about why they feel that way. There are often valid reasons that we sometimes don’t know from our surface assessments.
- Believe them. When patients are coming in, they want help. More likely than not they will be telling you the truth.
- Focus on the Whole Self. There are often situations going on in our patient’s lives which change how they re taking care of themselves. Remember to ask your patients about how they are living.
- Ask about how they are feeling lately. Our emotional mindset affects our physical constitution. Your patient may be dealing with emotional factors that are affecting them physically or somatically.
Social media and reality TV create a venue for people to share their personal stories. Do you think more transparency about your personal story can help or harm your field of work? Can you explain
There is a psychological concept that purports that if you give just enough of yourself, it will allow your patient to go deeper in their sessions. I think in general, we are living in a social media world. Everyone expects that we can Google our practitioners. When our potential clients think they know us personally, they have a perception of feeling more connected to us. I have noticed that when I share a personal story in a social media post, blog or interview, I get responses that let me know my followers (and potential clients) feel more connected to me. As a therapist, we are often perceived to be flat, and there are projections on us that are often false about how “perfect” our lives are. Showing that we are human in the public realm can have positive effects. This, however, does not change how I work with my clients in person.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant to your life?
We may encounter many defeats, but we must not be defeated — Maya Angelou
As a kid I was kicked down and dragged through the mud, then I had to get my life in order as an adult before I figured out my path. I could have easily just absorbed all the defeats I had when I was young and could have let them define my outlook for the future, but I chose not to. This one trait has been a cornerstone of my resilience as I venture through my life.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I would want everyone to start their day by telling themselves every day, “I am enough”. If more people believe that about themselves, we’d have more calm, less neurotic, happier people who then could manage life challenges more easily as they will believe they are better equipped to do so.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
@DrColleenMullen on IG, FB & Twitter
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!