By David Joel Miller.
Who is helping the helpers?
Therapists are encouraged to go for their own therapy. Rather than being a sign that there is something wrong with this professional, having someone you can talk to about your problems is recommended practice, and for good reason.
This got me thinking, wondering, which professionals who help others are encouraged to get help for themselves and which are to embarrassed, ashamed or arrogant to get help for themselves.
Counselors need to have counselors.
First let’s talk about the counselor or therapist who goes for therapy and then we will inquire about other professions.
Beginning counselors are encouraged to see another professional both as a part of the training process and ongoing after they are licensed. Being a helper is a stressful job and you would have to be pretty arrogant to think that once you become a professional you will not need to see someone for your own stuff.
Clients sometimes ask about this. I see it in the search terms from time to time. There is no reason to avoid a therapist who is going for personal counseling and in fact we think this is a good think. Many licensing boards feel it is so important that the counselor work on their own stuff that they allow us to count a certain number of hours of personal counseling towards licensure. This process is so important there is even a bonus of extra credit for some hours of personal therapy.
Many schools require counselors in training to go for their own counseling. Doctors see other doctors. Teachers take classes from other professionals and it just makes sense to take good care of yourself.
Drug counselors need help staying sober.
Substance Abuse counselors have recognized this for a long time. They are at high risk of relapse by virtue of spending all day talking about drugs with their clients. Sponsors should have sponsors and therapists need to see another mental health professional.
In substance abuse counseling it is common, almost universal for the counselor to be in recovery and often they are still attending meetings.
Mental health staff need self care also.
What we do not hear nearly enough about is the number of mental health professionals who are in some form of mental health recovery. Our professional schools are still too under the influence of those Freudian’s who never self-disclose anything to anyone. But a whole bunch of mental health professionals have told me privately that they have struggled with or are in recovery from some mental illness or other. If not them then they have a relative or friend who has that issue.
Why else would you want to work in this field if you or someone you knew had not had to overcome an issue?
Incredibly that mental health professional who entered the field because someone helped them create a happy life, once they are in the field, becomes too embarrassed to talk about their own issues. Some have even been threatened with loss of job or friends if they self-disclose this item. Peer counselors and members of self-help groups are at special risk to think that having “fixed” themselves they can now stop working on themselves and just help others. This is a relapse waiting to happen.
If you work in this field, as a professional, a peer or even a volunteer, you need to stay connected to a support system that can help your recovery and that may mean you need to continue to go to meetings or see a professional.
So what about other professions self care?
It is Sunday, I wrote this on another day and scheduled it to appear later, but it is being posted on a Sunday. Which brings up the question – who – mostly works on Sundays?
First thing that comes to mind is what about religious leaders?
One way of understanding churches and similar institutions is that they are hospitals for the spiritually sick. Many recovery programs include spirituality or religion as parts of the life that need to be included in your recovery plan.
So do religious leaders, pastors, priests, rabbis, Imam and so forth ever need spiritual guidance or are those guys and gals that close to spiritual perfection? Far as I know there are relatively few perfect people on earth and the ones who think they are there, that they have arrived at perfection, they are at the highest risk of taking a wrong turn into thinking that they need to take over and do the job of being God.
Does anyone out there know – do pastors see other pastors? They can’t very well go to church can they, what with having to work every single Sunday.
I know that some denominations have a hierarchy and that the local pastor or priest has to report to a superior. Mostly that looks like running a business. How many viewers did your sermon get and how much was in the collection? What about real spiritual guidance?
Given the number of cases of child sexual abuse and the affairs of the clergy one has to wonder. Pastors and priest do, for the record, end up in rehab. We can’t tell you which ones. That is about confidentiality. It would appear that religious leaders have the same prohibition on self-disclosure therapists are encouraged to observe. They just seem able to hide it better than depressed psychotherapists.
What is up with us not wanting to admit that the care giver sometimes needs help and that needing help sometimes does not disqualify you from being of service to others?
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books
- What is a therapist? What do therapists do? (counselorssoapbox.com)
- How To Find A Good Psychotherapist (drdeborahserani.blogspot.com)
- What Type of Mental Health Professional is Right for You? (psychologytoday.com)