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Waiting for Inspiration


by Stan Tatkin, PsyD, MFT,

Inspiration should be the guiding incentive for doing interventions, not pressure. Many therapists, including experienced ones, act on pressure rather than from a creative place. Pressure can come in various forms: pressure from the patient, pressure from time, pressure from one’s own need to perform, pressure from a supervisor, etc. Pressure to act may lead the therapist to make mistakes: ill-timed or ill-placed interventions, incorrect assumptions, misattuned moments, or countertransference acting-out.

In contrast, inspiration comes as an “aha’ moment when the therapist has waited a sufficient amount of time to allow for percolation of his or her ideas, impulses, fantasies, etc. Inspiration comes as a result of a convergence of implicit and explicit experience, of both fast and slow thinking (Daniel Kahneman), and of a relaxed body.

Unfortunately for new therapists inspiration usually must take a backseat to pressure as the novelty and complexity of the therapeutic situation draws too many internal resources from the brain and body. For experienced therapists, however, the reverse should be true: inspiration should be driving the therapist’s actions. Inspiration is akin to creativity, novelty, and collaboration. Pressure to act is more akin to threat, fear, and self-protection and should be seen as an enemy of good therapy.

Tell me what you think! Agree? Disagree?

© 2013 – A Psychobiological Approach to Couple Therapy® – all rights reserved



  1. Well said, Stan! And I completely agree. My best therapeutic moments arrive out of a receptive mind and a calm body. My worst are when I’m reacting to my reactions.


  2. Dayna says:

    Agree! When I am patient and work in the moment watching my couples every micro movement I can get great inspiration for interventions. Your training has provided amazing creative ideas that keep me on my toes! Thanks Stan!


  3. Jamila says:

    Hello Stan,

    I’m an MFT trainee at The Relational Center in Los Angeles. Through a series of coincidences, I came across your blog post and found it extremely helpful. I have been stressing out today about a couple I’m working with. I received a call from one of them and although there is no crisis I began putting pressure on myself to “do something”. I immediately felt myself relax as I read about your distinction between pressure and inspiration. I have some resources I can pull from and I intend to create a calm mental state and see what I come up with when I meet with them tomorrow. Thanks for your post.


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