Psychotherapist, heal thyself: should therapists have therapy?

 

Should psychotherapists have their own personal therapy?This is a question that has been asked by many in our field. When I trained in the U.K., it was mandatory to have our own personal therapy, as it is in many European training courses.

When I moved back to Canada, I was surprised by how many can practice psychotherapy, but there is no requirement to have personal therapy.

I still question how someone can do this work without examining their own issues.

I am reminded of Carl Jung’s concept of the Wounded Healer, a term he used to describe anyone in this profession. It is through working on our own wounds that we develop empathy, experience transference, dependency, and how to go through the process of working through our issues.

Rather than just the academic understanding of psychotherapy, we experience it. There is no split between our own wounds and being a healer.

Researcher, Alison Barr, found that 73% of counsellors and psychotherapists have experienced one or more wounds in their life, leading to this career choice. [1]

Psychiatrist, Steve Reidbord writes, “The therapist’s own psychotherapy ‘calibrates the instrument’ so he or she can better trust its readings when applied to patients.” [2]

The instrument is the psychotherapist’s use of self. We have something to draw on from our own experience of working through our issues. For example, we can sense transference, or we can better recognise when we are getting caught up in our client’s issues because we have gone through this ourselves.

My question to those who practice as a psychotherapist, counsellor, social worker, or psychologist is how do you deal with your personal issues?

As a client, you may want to find out if your counsellor, social worker, or therapist has worked on their own issues.

It is a valid question.

 

References:

[1]Barr, Alison. (n.d.). Wounded Healer Counsellor and Psychotherapist Research. Retrieved from http://www.thegreenrooms.net/wounded-healer.

[2]Reidbord M.D., Steven. (2011, September 18). Therapy for Therapist: should therapists have therapy themselves? [Blog Post]. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sacramento-street-psychiatry/201109/therapy-therapists.