Preview Mode Links will not work in preview mode

May 11, 2020

The Person of the Therapist

An interview with Dr. Harry Aponte about challenging the idea that therapists can be blank screens or “surgeons.” We talk with Dr. Aponte about the importance of the self of the therapist in creating the relationship and doing effective clinical work. We also look into his Person of the Therapist Training and much of his body of work supporting therapists as well as communities of color.  

It’s time to reimagine therapy and what it means to be a therapist. To support you as a whole person and a therapist, your hosts, Curt Widhalm and Katie Vernoy talk about how to approach the role of therapist in the modern age.

Interview with Dr. Harry J. Aponte, HPhD, MSW, LCSW, LMFT

Dr. Harry J. Aponte, HPhD, MSW, LCSW, LMFT, is a family therapist known for his writings and workshops on the person of the therapist, spirituality in therapy, therapy with disadvantaged and culturally diverse families, and structural family therapy. Dr. Aponte was a staff member and teacher of family therapy at the Menninger Clinic, and subsequently Director of the Philadelphia Child Guidance Center.  Currently, Dr. Aponte is clinical associate professor in the Couple & Family Therapy Program of Drexel University in Philadelphia.  He has a private practice in Philadelphia, and conducts training and workshops throughout the country and abroad.

Dr. Aponte published Bread & Spirit through Norton, a book that speaks to therapy with today’s poor in the context of ethnicity, culture and spirituality.

Dr. Aponte and Dr. Karni Kissil have edited a book entitled The Person of the Therapist Training Model: Mastering the Use of Self, published by Routledge (2016).

In this episode we talk about:

  • Aponte’s story, including his work with Salvador Minuchin, Virginia Satir, Murray Bowen
  • Debunking the idea that therapists act as surgeons and that clients from marginalized communities “don’t talk.”
  • Aponte’s racial background interacting with the work that he did
  • The reasons he was asked so frequently asked to work with families in poverty-stricken areas
  • How the ideas in The Person of the Therapist came to be
  • Bringing mental health into communities of color
  • Social justice and advocacy within the therapist’s purview
  • Working with Jim Lester, an activist in Philadelphia, to bridge the gap between education, mental health services for kids who were truant
  • The ideas of structural therapy being translated into the communities
  • The difference of lived experience in bringing oneself into the therapeutic relationship
  • The Person of the Therapist training at Drexel University
  • How Harry’s personal experiences continue to impact his work
  • What is missing in most clinical training
  • The use of self in therapy
  • The importance of knowing yourself before you become a therapist
  • The idea that you must also know your hang ups and challenges and what you’ll be bringing into the room, so you can recognize and be “with” your clients
  • “Therapy is not a conversation; it is an experience.” – Dr. Harry Aponte
  • The vulnerability of being a therapist and the need to do work your work early in your training
  • The importance of doing versus reading about what should be done
  • Reasons that understanding yourself and bringing yourself into room provides better therapy

Resources mentioned:

We’ve pulled together resources mentioned in this episode and put together some handy-dandy links. Please note that some of the links below are affiliate links, so if you purchase after clicking below, we may get a little bit of cash in our pockets. We thank you in advance!

Family Therapy Pioneer Salvador Minuchin on the Therapist’s Self (article in Psychotherapy Networker)

The Person of the Therapist Training Model: Mastering the Use of Self (book)


Relevant Episodes:

How to BE a Therapist


Connect with us!

Our Facebook Group – The Modern Therapists Group

Get Notified About Therapy Reimagined 2020 (and TR2019 Virtual Conference)


Our consultation services:

The Fifty-Minute Hour


Who we are:

Curt Widhalm is in private practice in the Los Angeles area. He is the cofounder of the Therapy Reimagined conference, the CFO of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, an Adjunct Professor at Pepperdine University, a former Subject Matter Expert for the California Board of Behavioral Sciences, and a loving husband and father. He is 1/2 great person, 1/2 provocateur, and 1/2 geek, in that order. He dabbles in the dark art of making "dad jokes" and usually has a half-empty cup of coffee somewhere nearby. Learn more at:

Katie Vernoy is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, coach, and consultant supporting leaders, visionaries, executives, and helping professionals to create sustainable careers. Katie, with Curt, has developed workshops and a conference, Therapy Reimagined, to support therapists navigating through the modern challenges of this profession. Katie is also President of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. In her spare time, Katie is secretly siphoning off Curt's youthful energy, so that she can take over the world. Learn more at:

A Quick Note:

Our opinions are our own. We are only speaking for ourselves – except when we speak for each other, or over each other. We’re working on it.

Our guests are also only speaking for themselves and have their own opinions. We aren’t trying to take their voice, and no one speaks for us either. Mostly because they don’t want to, but hey.


Stay in Touch:

Our Facebook Group – The Modern Therapist’s Group



Voice Over by DW McCann

Music by Crystal Grooms Mangano