Being a therapist is an amazing vocation. I tell my clients all the time that I do not consider what I do a job, but more a calling. And while I am honored and truly humbled to be able to live a life doing something with much of my time that inspires and invigorates me (and truly comes naturally to me), I do not take the responsibilities that go along with such a profession lightly.
In any helping relationship, there is always a power differential. Any time that your therapist or medical or even acupuncture professional is taking a fee for service, you are vulnerable to them and to sharing with them some of the most raw and real parts of yourself. Additionally, you are entrusting in them that they have some semblance of mental stability, acuity and maturity to be able to take your life and your story, literally, into their hands.
Just like not all people should garner your immediate trust, neither should all professionals. And just because someone is in a helping profession does not mean you should automatically assume that they are smarter, more stable or more capable than they reveal themselves to be.
This week’s blog is dedicated to anyone who is either in search of a therapist who takes their own mental health seriously and/or any therapist who is wholly dedicated to being the best provider of services that he/she/they can be.
Three Reasons Your Therapist Should Have Their Own Therapist
1. Nobody in this life has arrived. Period.
No matter how evolved or self-aware a person is, there is not one person walking this planet that doesn’t at least have some issue to tweak or some challenge they haven’t yet unturned. That is the nature of life — growing and changing and nudging the stubborn and vestigial parts of ourselves to budge.
With that reality in mind, it should seem obvious that even if your therapist is a person who has done very serious personal work and is mostly happy and evolved, they should remain vigilant about looking at their own patterns, motivations, pitfalls and areas for improvement.
I’m not suggesting that your therapist (nor you) should be in therapy every week for every month for every year of their life. What I am suggesting, however, is that a consistent and healthy relationship with oneself involves tweaking from time-to-time, and the same goes for even the healthiest of mental health professionals.
It is absolutely unfair for a person to sit before you (in-person or virtually for virtual-based therapy) and to believe or project that they have all aspects of life figured out and are without human frailties. It isn’t good for you, and it isn’t good for them either.
Trust me when I say you want a perfectly imperfect therapist helping you — one who can not only admit they don’t always have all the answers, but who also can say they are sorry and make corrections when they inevitably fall to human error.
2. It is absolutely unfair to ask another person to expose their everything if you haven’t been willing to expose your own.
This one may seem obvious, but not all professionals have this one figured out. While I would never infer that it is easy to be a therapist (because it is absolutely challenging on myriad levels); it is way harder to be a client than it is to be a therapist. I’ll say it again. Being a client, asking for help and allowing another human being who you hope will not judge you or turn you away into the darkest crevices of your human psyche is terrifying. And real.
Do you really want to tell your entire life story (or even a portion of it) to a professional who doesn’t feel that they have any issues at all that they might need to address themselves? Do you really want to be in your most raw form in front of someone who may or may not even know what it is like to sit in your proverbial shoes?
Personally speaking, I absolutely would not.
No therapist who is worth their weight in words can purport to having deep empathy for a client’s journey (regardless of the similarities in their backgrounds), if they have not been brave enough to walk the same path they ask their clients to walk every day.
Asking for help is brave. I am overwhelmed with gratitude daily thinking about the trust my client’s put into my hands. Their whole hearts and their whole narrative. And, to that end, I take my own personal development and mental health journey seriously.
Any therapist who feels they are above or beyond the need for support may not be the right fit for you if you are looking for an authentic and empowerment-based therapeutic relationship.
3. You WANT a therapist who does really good self-care.
Therapists listen to a lot of sad things a lot of their days. On top of that, they have relationships and family drama and heartbreaks all their own. One of the most important things to have in your therapist is someone who is totally present with you when you are speaking to or sharing with them. That presence and that connection is a large part of what allows for deep healing in therapeutic bonding.
As you might imagine, if a person is working in the mental health field and they aren’t doing self care — which includes regular sleep, exercise, healthy diet and even things like vacations and weekends off; what you might find is that they can’t consistently be present for you and your needs.
One of the greatest assets to having a therapist who has both healthy boundaries around work and really positive signs of self-care is that they will have more to give you in your deepest hour(s) of need. While it might seem hard to have your therapist tell you they have limited availabilities on certain days or that they won’t be checking in with you for their week or two on vacation; them creating that self-discipline will ultimately serve you and your needs far better in the long run (and allow you the really healthy role-modeling of how to turn around and practice that level of self-advocacy and emotional protection in your own life).
Bottom Line: Therapists are people. People are imperfect. And while it is okay to expect professionalism and consistency from your therapist, it is also okay to accept that they, too, are human and that they, too, should be as brave as you in their quest for personal growth.
For a free, 30-minute phone consultation, contact me and refer to this blog.