Does My Therapist Go To Therapy?
According to the (American Counseling Association, 2011), “Counselors working with trauma survivors experience vicarious trauma because of the work they do. Vicarious trauma is the emotional residue of exposure that counselors have from working with people as they are hearing their trauma stories and become witnesses to the pain, fear, and terror that trauma survivors have endured”.
If a therapist is going to therapy then something is wrong with that therapist right? Let’s think about that question for a moment. In fact, that question in itself infers if something comes up for a therapist to seek out therapy in the first place that (i.e., countertransference, case consultation, or vicarious trauma symptomology) by virtue of simply being a therapist in the first place they shouldn’t have to go to therapy to address said issue. Let’s put it another way, a therapist shouldn’t have to go to therapy because they should know how to deal with it because they’re already a therapist. Does that really make sense? Human beings (including this author) are all flawed; we all have character defects and areas of development and it is in that vein that reliance shouldn’t be based on clinicians doing the right thing because they should.
According to (Berthold, 2014), “Countertransference reactions can affect multiple realms of a clinician’s life and also negatively affect the professional’s relationship with the survivor they are trying to serve”.
What’s the motivation behind this post? As a member of this industry this author has been witness to actions and behavior that led to the manifestation of this writing. That is to say, it is imperative for us to do a better job caring for ourselves so we can in turn be in a better position as clinicians to conduct ourselves professionally which enhances the care of our clients we serve and by extension the public at large by virtue of the services we offer.
According to the (American Counseling Association, 2011), “Vicarious trauma can also impact a counselor’s personal life, such as relationships with family and friends, as well as the counselor’s health, both emotional and physical”.
This author feels it should be mandatory for all mental health workers: (administrative personnel, counselors, social workers, therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, and so on) to go to therapy on a regular ongoing basis as part of a regulated self care plan to ensure compliance and as a result a healthier place of mind to focus on what’s most important in our line of work…the client.
“It is an ethical duty, above all, for health and mental health professionals not to do harm to their clients and patients. Therefore, it is essential that clinicians strive to become aware of, understand, and develop the skills to address or make therapeutic use of the information provided by their countertransference reactions” (Berthold, 2014).
It is this author’s experience that mental health practitioners with twenty, thirty, forty, and in some cases fifty years or more of clinical experience are some of the biggest violators of not going to therapy for self and instead become a number associated with the number of years of experience they have as opposed to making the right choices to ensure they are healthy in body and mind and there’s a price to pay for it unfortunately it’s the already burdened, wounded, and encumbered client who pays the heaviest price.
“Even individuals in the helping professions can benefit from meeting with a counselor, especially when they are experiencing compassion fatigue. A compassionate therapist can help put things in perspective and help identify additional coping skills” (Salazar, 2016).
When the mental health care provider is not caring for self they are by default passing it on to their clients in session either knowingly or unknowingly and that’s harmful, unethical, and dangerous. As clinicians we have to hold ourselves to a higher standard of accountability to support a consistent commitment to client care including caring for ourselves so we can be in a better position to care for our clients.
“Professionals who do not examine or attend to these issues and take care of themselves effectively not only harm themselves (including possibly developing health and mental health problems), but are at risk of engaging in incompetent or unethical professional behavior––perhaps not consciously, but they are at risk of this nonetheless” (American Counseling Association, 2011).
Daniel Acosta M.A., AMFT is a Registered Associate Marriage and Family Therapist in Mission Viejo, California. He works in private practice with men, women and adolescents and provides individual, couples, pre-marital, family and marital therapy for clients in Orange County. If you would like to schedule a session he can be reached at 949-943-7820 or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
American Counseling Association. (2011, October 11). Vicarious Trauma. Retrieved February 26, 2020, from https://www.counseling.org/docs/trauma-disaster/fact-sheet-9---vicarious-trauma.pdf
Berthold, M. (2014, June 1). Vicarious Trauma and Resilience. Retrieved February 26, 2020, from https://vtt.ovc.ojp.gov/ojpasset/Documents/VT_VT_and_Resilience_Training-508.pdf
Salazar, W. (2016, June 23). Vicarious Trauma and the Value of Self-Care for Therapists. Retrieved February 26, 2020, from https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/vicarious-trauma-value-of-self-care-for-therapists-0627164