Why Therapists Benefit from Therapy

“Therapists need to have a long experience in personal therapy to see what it’s like to be on the other side of the couch and see what they find helpful or not helpful.  And if possible, get into therapy at different stages of their life with different kinds of therapists just to sample a bit. “ Irvin D. Yalom

Describe your life in three words.  Three words – that’s it.   What would they be?  Happy?  Thriving?  Overwhelmed?  Exhausted? Burned Out?

It is an interesting concept to consider and one that you may need to take some time to ponder.  For most people I ask that client to at least two out of the three words are negative!   It is a question that I typically ask helping professionals out of curiosity – almost like my version of an informal poll.   Over the last six months the words chosen have depicted a deep heaviness taking a toll at the core with those who have chosen to remain on the front lines of helping people manage their emotions, their physical and emotional health or even their safety.  The emotional exhaustion is impacting most therapists that I work with to a level that is concerning for me.  Our profession is not always the best with self-care so I wonder where we will be six months from now if the exhaustion remains unchecked.   A client of mine who is a therapist asked me over the weekend if there was a such a thing as “decision fatigue”.   Heck yes there is!   Especially when we are holding space for clients, for ourselves, our families and for those we care about.  Sometimes by the end of the day our brains cannot manage another decision or issue to address!

So why do we avoid seeking therapy ourselves?   What is that core message that tells you that you are an imposter if you actually seek out therapy while still providing therapy?

Therapy for Therapists will help prevent burnout.

As therapists, we often give a lot of ourselves to our clients, which can cause us to feel depleted. Burnout can occur when therapists feel too depleted, and it can cause us to become apathetic and overwhelmed. Burnout can potentially lead to poor quality of service for our clients and the all too familiar ‘brain fog’.  Therapy is can be a very important part of self-care that can prevent and alleviate burnout for many social workers and counselors.   I am not saying that you cannot practice if you are burned out.   Please hear me – I work with many rockstar therapists who are burned out.   The issue with working while you are burned out is that your clients get all of your energy and your family, significant other, fur baby or even yourself gets nothing.   Before you email me your thoughts on this, yes, sometimes one has to take a break from providing therapy to be able to function.  I realize that exists and I would completely support that if ongoing work would result in harm to clients.  In my experience, it has been able to be balanced ethically, professionally and effectively.   However, I will be the first person to identify if my opinion changes!

Therapy for Therapists will help you process clients’ thoughts and feelings.

As therapists, we often hear about our clients’ deepest, most painful issues.  Hearing about things like trauma, abuse, addiction, and mental health issues every day can weigh on a therapist. It is like a heaviness that cannot be described effectively unless you are there.  No matter how amazing your boundaries are, the emotions catch a ride home with you.  Kind of like the ending of the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland.  Therapy can be a way of processing your reactions to some of the things you are hearing from your clients in order to preserve your own mental health in a way that is different than supervision.  Supervision is effective and needed.  Therapy allows you to go to that deeper level that you do not want to share with your co-workers.  We all have those triggers – we just do not always have the courage to be brave enough to talk about them in an authentic manner.

Therapy for Therapists will allow you to deal with your own issues.

We are humans first, therapists second.  Our identity has been created by life experiences – good and bad.   Our identity is not just what we do.  And if it is – call me, we need to chat!   Just like other people, therapists can struggle with issues like anxiety, depression, grief, loss, stress, and many other problems that can be helped with therapy. It’s important for all of us to be processing our own issues so that they do not negatively affect our clients.

I have been asked numerous times if I have ever gone to therapy myself.  I am sure most of you have been asked that question as well!  How do you respond?  Do you discuss the boundaries of your clinical relationship?  Or do you tell your life story?  Perhaps you avoid the question all together.

My response – which you can borrow – is that I am human just like they are and that during challenging times in my life I have sought outside guidance for an objective viewpoint.  Right or wrong that is my response.  Every single time.

Therapy means you are human, not broken.  If we, as therapists, cannot embrace that for ourselves how can we normalize it for those we work with?

If you have been blessed with a not perfect but very normal life, I could not be happier for you and grateful for your experience.  Not everyone NEEDS therapy.

But if you have been on a roller coaster of an adventurous life, therapy is normal, healthy and can be very empowering.

Perhaps it is time to stop giving the “you are not broken” speech and start to take care of you.

You got this – I am here to help if you ask.  We can be rockstars together.

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