In one of my daily psychology alerts, I came across the latest music and video news in Rolling Stone – I found myself laughing out loud at Lena Dunham and boyfriend Jack Antonoff’s first collaboration for his solo debut, ‘I Wanna Get Better’. John Bliston writes,
‘Breakups are never fun, especially when they happen first thing in the morning. And when your job as a therapist is to help other people fix their problems when you can’t even seem to figure out your own, it’s even worse. Such is the painfully hilarious setup Lena Dunham crafts for the video to “I Wanna Get Better,” the first single from Bleachers singer (and Dunham’s boyfriend) Jack Antonoff.’
On a more serious note, it got me to thinking about the number of professionals within the mental health and helping vocations who have never had their own counselling or psychotherapy.
When I first started my training, it was not uncommon for students to be at least thirty before they were accepted into classic depth psychotherapy training. If the applicant was younger, they must have had significant life experience and a commitment to their own personal and spiritual development. Entry was based on rigorous application and therapists had to be in weekly personal psychotherapy for the duration of their training – anywhere from four to eight years. If at any time throughout the training the student and/or supervisor felt they needed to process at a deeper level, the student took some time out of the training to do this.
How times have changed.
Academically based PhDs by thirty are not uncommon. Many training organisations also do not require personal therapy as part of their psychology, social work, counselling or psychotherapy degrees (however personal therapy is at least encouraged in most counselling and psychotherapy private training organisations) and professional associations do not require personal therapy as part of their registration requirements.
This is potentially an act of personal and professional irresponsibility and negligence.
Mental health workers, psychologists, social workers, counsellors or psychotherapists probably shouldn’t be working in the helping professions without having sat in the client’s chair first. Although much more complex than this and with far greater ethical implications, that would be like seeing a dentist who didn’t get regular check-ups or a personal trainer who didn’t exercise!
In The Independent, Yalom states,
‘It is, of course, mandatory for people entering this field to have a long personal experience with therapy. I know I certainly have and have come back to it several times whenever I have had some kind of crisis in my life.’
‘…there is a profound quality difference between those counsellors and psychotherapists who have experienced an in-depth psychotherapy and those who have not.’
Following are just a few of the reasons that your therapist should have had or should be in therapy:
Edited 21/4/17: Check out this recent article in the Guardian, When therapists also need therapists: ‘Suffering is not unique to one group I love the psychoanalytic focus!
If you are looking for a therapist, it is perfectly acceptable to ask if they have had their own therapy.
This list is not exhaustive so feel free to add your comments below – I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic 🙂
This blog is part of my Therapy Rocks! series.
Sydney Soul-Centred Life-Coach, Counsellor and Psychotherapist Jodie Gale, is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being.
Over the last 15 years, Jodie has helped 100s of women to transform their lives. She has a private counselling, life-coaching and psychotherapy practice in Manly and Allambie Heights on the Northern Beaches of Sydney.
Jodie is passionate about putting the soul back into therapy!