Therapists need therapy, too.

September 9, 2021

Therapists need therapy, too.Yes, that’s right! Therapists need therapy, too! Just because therapists are highly trained professionals do not make them immune to life’s everyday stressors. Therapists have hard jobs. Period. They carry a lot of weight on their shoulders as they listen to clients talk about their own traumatic experiences on a daily basis. People probably wonder if therapists are superhuman and conflict-free. Well, guess what? Therapists are regular people with their own problems, too. In fact, the nature of the job makes therapists more prone to emotional distress.

There are many benefits a professional therapist gains by going to therapy. The stress of everyday life, ethical dilemmas in their line of work, child custody disputes, dealing with clients who are navigating co-parenting struggles, difficult clients, carrying other peoples’ emotional burdens – just to name a few – can be very taxing on an individual. No matter who you are!

Some members of our clinician team offer some further insight into the benefits of therapy for therapists in the field.

By Kasey Cain, Licensed Professional Counselor

My family, friends, co-workers, and colleagues have all heard me espouse the benefits of therapy. Of course, I support therapy – I chose to go into this profession because I believe in its effectiveness and have witnessed growth, comfort, skill-building, and success through positive therapeutic interaction. I would tell anyone that is thinking about engaging in therapy to give it a try. And guess what – therapists are encouraged to “practice what we preach.” Most graduate school programs recommend or require students to access therapeutic services for a variety of reasons.

Here are my top reasons why therapy for the therapist is a good idea:

1. Professional Responsibility:

At a minimum, it is a therapist’s professional responsibility to attend to their own physical, emotional, and mental health. The American School Counselor Association’s Ethical Standards state that school counselors must:

    • Monitor their emotional and physical health and practice wellness to ensure optimal professional effectiveness. School counselors seek physical or mental health support when needed to ensure professional competence.
    • Respect students’ and families’ values, beliefs, sexual orientation, gender identification/expression and cultural background and exercise great care to avoid imposing personal beliefs or values rooted in one’s religion, culture or ethnicity.

Similarly, the following statement is found in the American Counseling Association’s Code of Ethics:

    • In addition, counselors engage in self-care activities to maintain and promote their own emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual well-being to best meet their professional responsibilities.

2. Compassion Fatigue:

Merriam-Webster defines compassion fatigue as “the physical and mental exhaustion and emotional withdrawal experienced by those who care for sick or traumatized people over an extended period of time Unlike burnout, which is caused by everyday work stresses (dealing with insurance companies, making treatment choices), compassion fatigue results from taking on the emotional burden of a patient’s agony.”

The work of a therapist is not easy. Since I work with children and engage in a lot of play-based therapy, from the outside looking in, it may appear that I am crafting, painting, playing or reading. Yes, we do those things in therapy and we do them with purpose.  People are entrusting me with the support of their families. I take this responsibility very seriously and always want to provide the best possible care. Providing a high level of care can be exhausting. While clients share joyful moments, the majority of the work revolves around struggles, challenges, fears, conflict, and trauma. Add on to the content of the sessions the responsibility of confidentiality and you’ll find that many therapists keep a lot of information and feelings inside. Of course, therapists can, and do, consult with colleagues but it is also imperative that they seek out professional help when needed. 

3. Personal Challenges/Need for Support

Day to day life can be full of stress.  As noted above, the work of a therapist may add a layer of stress through compassion fatigue.  Additionally, being a trained therapist does not make someone immune to family conflict, anxiety, depression, self-doubt, need for self-reflection, and anything else that may cause someone to seek out therapy.

For all the same reasons I would suggest therapy is beneficial for you, it could be beneficial for me and any other therapist.

Amy Andrukonis, Supervisee in Clinical Social Work

Sometimes I am met with surprise when I share that I am in therapy. “You go to therapy? Aren’t you a therapist? Don’t you already know everything?”

For one thing, of course not. No therapist knows everything (and if they tell you they do, run in the opposite direction). But for another, I didn’t go to school to learn “the answers” anyways. A lot of the time, my work consists of simply being with clients in the midst of all the questions. Of course, in order to practice ethically, therapists must be credentialed. We learn from books and we learn from experience. But the magic is that therapy transcends the therapist and their experience, knowledge, and personality.

Therapy is about the relationship between therapist and client, and the whole becomes bigger than the sum of its parts. We feel seen and we “feel felt” in the context of the therapeutic relationship. I certainly believe we can each undertake powerful healing work on our own. But for me, I know that whatever is in the air between myself and my therapist during a session is a gift I can’t give myself, and I am grateful every week to receive it.

Until next time, Be Wise!