My grandpa used to say, “I never met a shrink who didn’t need one,” as if that was a valid reason for not seeking help for mental health problems. After being a therapist for nearly two decades, I totally agree with my Grandpa.
Therapists are an interesting and colorful bunch and we definitely have our own share of mental health problems. I’d take grandpa’s phrase even farther by saying I’ve never met a person who didn’t need a shrink. We can all benefit from examining our experiences and getting an outside perspective from a mental health professional during difficult times.
The most effective therapists I’ve worked with, as a colleague and as a client, are those who’ve already worked through some of their own mental health and relationship struggles with a therapist, have a handle on their own pain and vulnerability, understand their family relationship patterns, and are comfortable walking with others through their pain. Not only is working through issues with your own therapist good for your own mental health and personal relationships, it’s also good for your therapy practice.
Here are 5 Reasons Your Own Therapy Is Good For Your Practice:
1- Increased empathy for and effectiveness with clients
Being willing to be “the client” in therapy is a gift to your own clients. Just like it’s impossible to be a trail guide on a mountain you’ve never climbed, it’s impossible to take a client into emotional terrain you’ve never traveled before. As we sit with clients in their painful crises, we are better able to “go there” with them in the therapy process if we can access of our own experiences.
2- Awareness of countertransference keep clients engaged in therapy
After training and managing therapists for several years, I’ve noticed that those who’ve done their own work in therapy have a better handle on countertransference issues that arise with their clients, they are less overwhelmed by the feelings, and they are more willing to process their own emotions in supervision. Therapists who have done their own therapeutic work are better able to keep clients engaged in meaningful therapy, which is crucial to success in private practice.
3- Feel deserving of success and financial compensation
Therapist’s I’ve supervised or consulted with who have difficulty collecting fees, setting boundaries, or allowing themselves to be successful in their practice are usually plagued by unresolved issues from their past. Working through your own childhood wounds, past trauma, or family of origin issues can free you to create and to embrace your own success in private practice.
4- Healthy boundaries with client’s and colleagues
Therapists who’ve done their own work are less likely to enact their unresolved issues with colleagues and clients. They are also able to set and maintain appropriate boundaries with clients with out guilt. For example, if a therapist is still stuck in trying to please a parent, it may be extremely difficult for a therapist to tell a client that they don’t have any evening appointments available because they may want to avoid dealing the client’s disappointment.
5- Create a meaningful practice and avoid burnout
Your own work in therapy allows you to be a healthier individual and create a thriving therapy practice. Unresolved and untreated mental health issues will block your success. Your business will likely mirror the places you’re stuck personally. Doing your own therapy work will allow you to feel empowered to work with clients that energize you, work from an abundance mindset, and feel worthy of professional success.
How has your own work in therapy impacted your private practice?
Read my World Mental Health Day blog post on JulieHanks.com “Do your emotional family history”
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Hanks, J. (2011). World Mental Health Day: I’ve Never Met A Shrink Who Didn’t Need One. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 30, 2015, from http://pro.psychcentral.com/private-practice/2011/10/world-mental-health-day-ive-never-met-a-shrink-who-didnt-need-one/
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 10 Oct 2011