Many training programs in counseling and psychotherapy require that the trainees go through their own therapy as a part of their preparation and formation. I personally feel that this is an essential component of a therapist’s training and should be required in ALL programs.
I like to tell the story of how I first presented to my own Analyst. I walked in, took the couch and stated, “I am only here because I have to be.” My plan was simply to “check-off” the requirement of the “training analysis,” for surely that was all it was, a chance to see how things are done.
I would go on to spend the next several months understanding why I actually needed to be there, training analysis or otherwise. I realized that I was already a “wounded healer,” and I was offered the blessing of healing and integration for myself before I would go on to share these dynamics with others.
I honestly believe there are only two kinds of therapists in the world: those who are wounded, and those who have not yet been ready to admit that they are wounded. No one “gets through” unscathed, and there is no shame in facing this reality openly and honestly. Therapists need therapy too.
But what might clients and patients think if they new the therapist had also been through therapy, or that s/he might even still go from time to time? Won’t they lose confidence?
Actually, no. Most clients and patients actually appreciate knowing that their therapist is human, and that s/he has confronted and worked through her/his own demons. Anyway, no one wants to sit with someone who is pretending to be some shining beacon of mental perfection! Folks want to know that the therapist has been “tried by fire” and knows how to heal through the burns.
Counselors and therapists: be real with yourselves. If you have never sat in therapy as a part of your training, go now. If you are struggling with the pressures of the work, go now. When you need a break and/or a “tune-up,” GO. If you truly believe in the power of therapy, wouldn’t you also utilize it yourself?
Clients and patients: Please understand that your therapist is a human being, usually a very caring and empathic one, who has been through her/his own personal life challenges, and who also sits with the suffering of others on a daily basis. By all means, expect them to be trained, competent, and seasoned, but please don’t ask them to be perfect. Remember that is is through the working through of these imperfections that s/he learned how to best understand and help others.
May we ALL continue on the path of openness, healing, and integration. May no one ever feel ashamed for being human in a world where humans are often very hard on other humans. May we continue to work together to build a world where compassion and edification reign, so that there will one day be no more “wounded” in any form.
Until then, we press on. We help, we heal, we ask for help, and we accept healing. We continue to work to embrace and live the Therapeutic Lifestyle.