As a newly minted, fresh-out-of-graduate-school mental health therapist, I like to obsess about how I'm not good enough at my job.
I tell my supervisor about all my clinical mess-ups, the evidence of my incompetence. She receives my confession calmly, leaning back in her chair like a sedated priest. I keep hoping she'll tell me how I can start being a good enough therapist, but she hasn't yet.
I suspect she's waiting for me to discover that not-enough is enough. Donald Winnicott, a British theorist who studied interactions between babies and parents, coined the phrase "good-enough mother." A good-enough mother meets her baby's needs enough of the time, but not all the time. This combination of meeting and not-meeting needs helps the baby build what we call frustration tolerance.
Good-enough mother translates into good-enough-pretty-much-anything. Good-enough spouse. Good-enough job. Good-enough friend.
So, how much need-meeting constitutes a good-enough therapist? Can I keep a tally with each client and score myself at the end of every session? When I can help someone start to unravel the impossible tangle of depression, tally under "needs met." When I'm so enraptured with my own theories that my client might as well be invisible, tally under "needs frustrated."