Therapists have therapists – Who do pastors and priests see?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

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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 who are too 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 thing. 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 needs 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 Freudians who never self-disclose anything to anyone. But a whole bunch of mental health professionals has 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 the loss of job or friends if they self-disclose this item. Peer counselors and members of self-help groups are at a 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 profession’s 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?

The 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 Priests 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 caregiver sometimes needs help and that needing help sometimes does not disqualify you from being of service to others?

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5 thoughts on “Therapists have therapists – Who do pastors and priests see?

  1. Pingback: Why do therapists stop seeing you if you aren’t getting better? | counselorssoapbox

  2. Pingback: Your Self-talk can predict the future | counselorssoapbox

  3. In the religiious tradition I’m familiar with, the Episcopal Church, it is usual for an episcopal priest to have what is called a spiritual director. There is training within the church for people to becvome spiritual directors. Having a spiritual director is not limited to priests, but as far as I know, they are strongly encouraged to have one. I’m not familiar with how one gets to be a spiritual director.


    • Thanks for that info. I believe other traditions, not necessarily just Christian ones, also have spiritual advisers. I am not sure what qualifies someone to advise others spiritually or how many professional clergy have such an adviser. Maybe others can tell us more here.


  4. Pingback: What is a blog? Why are you writing a blog? | counselorssoapbox

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