Private Practice Success Newsletter

by Lynn Grodzki, Oct 2014.


Last month, I attended a remarkable event: I went to the memorial service for my former psychotherapist and mentor, Marilyn Ellis, that was attended by many of her clients from her long career.

I know that speaking publicly about one’s therapist is rare; most of us who have been in therapy tend to keep the experience private. But I wish that people would talk more openly about their experience with therapy, sharing the good that therapists do.

I want to pay tribute to Marilyn. Tribute, an old Latin word which is defined as an act, statement, or gift that is intended to show gratitude, respect, or admiration, feels like an appropriate expression to someone who had a huge impact on my life and work.

Marilyn was not a therapist superstar. She never wrote a book, went on a speaking tour, recorded an audio or gave a Ted talk. She didn’t even have a website. But at this memorial service, her legacy was clear. Over and over, attendees celebrated the good fortune of having Marilyn for a therapist.

Some spoke about her unique style–a dizzying combination of fearless toughness and deep compassion. Some told funny stories about their time with her. People were laughing and crying and nodding their heads to say, that happened to me with Marilyn, too.

I saw a number of people I know, her clients who are themselves therapists, coaches and healers. Marilyn loved her work and made service to others look like a good profession to pursue; like a heroic salmon swimming upstream, she left dozens of next generation therapists spawned in her wake.

Carrying the Message

Having Marilyn as my therapist changed the course of my life. During the many years we worked together she helped me to first identify and resolve my personal issues and then supported my progress as I remarried, changed careers, became a therapist and later, became a coach and author. She was passionate about the importance of personal growth. She pushed me to be true to my purpose and be my best self. I try to carry these same values to those I work with every day.

So many people at the service spoke about her combination of compassion and directness that they try to embody in their own work and lives. After the memorial, I thought about her lasting impact. Marilyn’s legacy was in the people she helped, and, in turn, in the people they help. It goes well beyond what even she might have understood.

The Person versus The Process

Marilyn was known for being eclectic, combining multiple techniques as a therapist. She was a lifelong student, learning new methods and then integrating them into her work, evolving over time.

But regardless of what method she was using, it was her presence that was the resounding element of her work. At times, many of us who are also engaged in learning new methods forget that the process we use is only a small part of our impact. Who we are, not just what we do, makes the difference.

Marilyn clearly made a difference to her clients, far beyond her skills and methods. I am grateful she was my therapist.

Articulating Your Essence

I talk about this last distinction, the person versus the process, with therapists I coach. We all need to find ways to articulate who we are, not just what we do. Both are essential to the results we deliver.

If you want to enhance your ability to communicate your essence, here is a quick list of seven questions on the website for you to think through.

To Describe Your Essence, Answer These Questions:

  1. What are the benefits of working with you versus another therapist, coach, healer or helping professional?
  2. What do you offer that is unique and different?
  3. How does your personality and non-professional experience add to your professional presence?
  4. What do clients value about you as a person and you as a professional?
  5. What do clients value about your practice, office, and services?
  6. What successes have you had and why?
  7. What can clients anticipate or expect from their work with you? (Hint: Think about outcome, process, and accessibility.)


copyright by Lynn Grodzki, 2014, all rights reserved. Reprint by permission only.