It’s said that a good golf caddy is aware of the challenges and obstacles of the golf course being played, along with the knowledge of the best strategy in playing it. A helpful caddy would know the overall yardage, pin placements and best club selection at any given hole. What does golf and caddies have to do with therapy? At first glance, not much. Except that engaging in the sport can be therapeutic for some in a not-so Happy-Gilmore way. I was delighted in hearing a client share with me the unique role and obligation a caddy has to his player. A therapist and caddy’s job sounds metaphorically similar.
My new understanding of a caddy’s role (thanks to my very experienced golfing client) is to support their player. By encouraging the player to use all the tools available, pointing out their blind spots, knowing the landscape and giving them the best “club” to reach their full potential (best self) in the game. A professional caddy needs to know the individual’s skills and goals as well as the strengths and the challenges they bring to the table. As a therapist I too join with my clients and have a similar objective. I remind them of certain obstacles and sand traps they may be vulnerable to on their life course (aka spending time with their critical mother or tendencies towards perfectionism or cognitive distortions.) Their treatment planning is a collaborative process- they tell me what they need and what they want to achieve. We carry the bag at times and pass the best tool/golf club for the challenges ahead. The driver: Mindfulness for rumination. The wedge: Routine and gratitude for depression. The good old trusty putter- Meditation, endless benefits. Our mission doesn’t stop at just getting you to the green, (landing the dream job, creating a stronger marriage, or battling imposter syndrome.) We want you to play the entire course using your values and finding meaning. As with being a caddy- a therapist needs to be supportive and accompany you through all aspects of the course, being encouraging, knowledgeable and validating. In the job title of professional caddy, you respect boundaries and uphold professionalism, just as in psychotherapy, despite the role being incredibly intimate. We are all up close and personal, to say the least. Caddy’s need to be attuned to the needs of the players and keep them motivated as do we with our clients.
The game of golf is difficult, infuriating, exhilarating and fulfilling and worth it, as is living. Playing the game can bring forth a full range of emotions similar to our daily lives. Why go at it alone? I consider the effective therapist (and caddy) to be willing to say the hard truths to the client/player that others may not be willing to say. In the position of an emotional caddy, therapists can help you not only improve your game, they can build confidence in your abilities in those harder low moments. So my dear friend, play well and swing easy. We will see you at tee time/session.