All humans experience deep challenges. That applies to therapists as much as anyone else. But being therapists means we have knowledge and resources most other people only access through us. So, there's this assumption that we always have it together, don't have personal challenges, or can always see, understand, and fix our own problems. Nope.
I work as a professional counselor/psychotherapist, and I can tell you that I don’t always have it together. Throughout my life — yes, even now — I'm sometimes gripped by insecurity, anxiety, uncertainty, hopelessness, and loneliness.
I’ve also experienced confidence, hope, clarity, fulfillment, purpose, connection, respect, empowerment, and belief in a higher power/meaning. It's access to these positive feelings that I want to help my clients find in their own lives.
They don't just show up. They come from investing in my personal, relational, and spiritual growth. I’ve sought out growth in a variety of ways, with varied consistency, commitment, and outcome. Having done it myself, I can say confidently that professional psychotherapy is one tool for growth and healing that I believe in.
Part of what drew me to being a therapist is my lifelong commitment of self-exploration and growth. I know there will be times in the future when I'll attend personal therapy again. I also know that when that time comes, I'll seek out a therapist who has done their own therapy and isn’t afraid to say it. The simple knowledge that your therapist has “done the work” themselves can create a sense of comfort and empathy. Based on my experience, I’ve included 7 reasons to see (or be) a therapist who has also been on the other side of the equation.
1. Therapy takes vulnerability and courage.
Having attended therapy makes us much better equipped to understand and empathize with the courage it takes to make that leap yourself.
2. Therapy is a big commitment – to yourself.
At the surface, therapy is a commitment of time, money, and energy. At its depth, therapy is a commitment to oneself, to valuing your well-being. If therapists aren’t able or willing to personally make that commitment, why would clients be expected to? Just showing up to therapy is a step toward self-care, self-love, and self-respect. Making it through the door should be celebrated.
3. It’s harder to see the possibilities when you’re inside the challenge.
Therapists have their own personal hurdles to jump. Knowledge, skill, and interest in helping others find their solutions doesn’t mean we can always see our own answers. By being a therapy client, we learn the strength it takes to voluntarily trust a stranger with your mental and emotional well-being.
4. Client-therapist connection is key.
The therapeutic relationship is the foundation of all therapy, and a significant factor in healing. By going to therapy themselves, therapists can personally experience the reality that the psychological theory and therapeutic techniques don’t matter if there isn’t a strong connection between therapist and client.
5. It’s easy to get in our own way – and the way of others.
We’re better able to support others if we’re attuned to and have resources for navigating our own challenges, strengths, insecurities, triggers, quirks, habits, needs, and patterns of relating.
6. It provides a common experience.
With all the different challenges a person can face in life, it would be impossible for a therapist to be able to personally relate to each client’s specific needs, and strengths. Though each person’s experience in therapy is unique, having firsthand experience in being client provides the therapist with a minimum of one common experience with every client.
7. We’re better at overcoming stigma about mental/emotional health services if we work together.
If we want to change our cultural perceptions about mental and emotional health, we need to start from the inside out. If mental/emotional health professionals can be open about seeking professional support, we can foster a more transparent and authentic dialogue with our clients, colleagues, family, friends, and community about ways to de-stigmatize mental and emotional health topics.