Stacy Notaras Murphy did not get into counseling so she could tell people what to do. “I remember the teacher in my high school freshman-year health class talking about advice as part of an interpersonal communications-type unit,” she recalls. “He said something that really stuck with me – people aren’t interested in unsolicited advice, so never give advice unless you’re specifically asked for it. Being a seriously bossy 14-year-old, that truly was news to me.”
Today, Murphy says this sentiment stays with her, making the occasions when she’s asked for direct advice somewhat challenging. “Therapists, as a rule, aren’t supposed to offer advice,” adds the certified Imago Relationship therapist. “There is no clinical basis for someone telling you what they would do in your situation – that’s just too subjective. The only people with enough life experience to give good, off-the-cuff advice would most likely be way past retirement age. Good counseling is really about collaboration and having someone to help you name and understand your own feelings about what you should do.”
So it might be surprising to learn that Murphy recently took on a new role as advice columnist for the DC-based Georgetowner and Downtowner newspapers. “I wasn’t completely sure if this was a good fit for me, to be honest. I talked about it with quite a few colleagues before jumping in,” she notes.
But as a former journalist, Murphy says the advice column offers a new intersection of some of her skills and interests. “I worked for seven years as a business writer and editor. When I started writing for Counseling Today [the magazine of the American Counseling Association] I found it was really exciting to, at long last, write about something that I was truly curious about.
“Writing a column, with my own opinion so obvious and public, that wasn’t anything I had ever done before. I’m still trying to find the balance between sound clinical information and writing something another person might actually want to read,” she says. Her new Murphy’s Love column aims to offer advice on intimacy and relationships, and will run monthly in both the printed and online versions of the newspapers.
“Each generation sees less of a stigma around seeking out supportive counseling. I’m hopeful that a column that’s a mix of intriguing dilemmas and clinical guidance might go even further in terms of showing that therapy can be a useful tool for making your life – your marriage, your family, even your work experience – better,” Murphy says. She also is happy that the column might raise PC&CC’s profile in the Georgetown neighborhood. “Our Georgetown office is still fairly new, so it’s nice to have a way to reach out to the community and let people know that we’re here and available,” she says.