Therapy for Therapists
- Emotional Depletion:Therapists are supposed to offer clients support, empathy, interpretation, explanation, direction, or advice. They are expected to give endlessly while expecting nothing in return, except the fee.
- Vicarious Traumatization (VT): VT is the result of empathetic engagement with patients who were traumatized.
- Isolation: Not only do therapists work mostly in private settings with legal restrictions on what they can share.
- Helplessness and Sense of Inefficiency: Unlike carpenters, gardeners, or surgeons, psychotherapists rarely see immediate, profound, or tangible results from their efforts. The work is often slow, and with difficult or charactologically impaired people, they may never see improvement. Even when therapy is effective in relieving painful symptoms and termination is successful, patients leave. With them goes the knowledge of the long-term effect the work has had on their lives.
- Depression and Sadness: Working constantly with people in pain, who feel suicidal, or are grieving over the loss of loved ones, or those severely traumatized, often takes a heavy toll on practitioners.
- Constant Worry: Psychotherapists may leave their offices worrying about whether a client is going to follow up on a suicide or homicide threat. Sleepless nights and constant worry are significant hazards of the profession.
- Grief Cycle: Therapists need to connect and disconnect on a regular basis. In many cases they never hear from their patients after termination. When clients terminate abruptly, therapists are left to grieve without sufficient closure.
- One-way Intimacy: While many clients disclose the most intimate aspects of their lives to their therapists, the therapist must share only what is appropriate and beneficial to the patients.
- Distraction: Focusing on other people’s problems, which may be more severe than their own, often leads therapists to lose track of their own situation.
- Inability to Shut off the Therapeutic Stance: After being an expert and helper for many hours, some therapists find it hard to leave the therapeutic or analytic stance behind. Interaction with friends, family members, and lovers in a mutual way without jargon or a feeling of expertise and where power is equally shared, can be beyond the scope of the therapist.
- The Threat of Lawsuits: Living in a highly litigious society and working with disturbed people in the unwitnessed privacy of our offices leave therapists extremely vulnerable to lawsuits.
The therapist’s own psychotherapy “calibrates the instrument” so he or she can better trust its readings when applied to clients.
Therapy for therapists normalizes and destigmatizes being in therapy. It improves one’s performance as a therapist non-specifically, by relieving stress and tension; and it may give the therapist a valuable perspective on what works and what doesn’t. The therapist’s own therapy encourages humility and may decrease errors based on hubris and unexamined countertransference.