I know lots of therapists that say “don’t go to a therapist unless they are also in therapy.” This may seem paradoxical. Wouldn’t I want a therapist that has it together and is on top of things? Wouldn’t that be the best type of person to help me? It’s not about them having it together or being so happy that they don’t need help. Let’s examine why you want your therapist to also be in therapy.
Therapy is for everyone. If your therapist never struggles, never has bad days – they may not be able to understand and empathize with you. Everyone could use a mental health check up from time to time. Dentists get their teeth cleaned too. Additionally, therapists have family members pass away, friends that cause drama, and lots of other emotional struggles. By the way, I’ll let you in on a super, mega, crazy secret about the lives and minds of therapists: … they’re human too! Oh, man! MIND BLOWN. Because they are human, they go through bad stuff, yes, even seriously bad stuff, just like you. And so, therapy is a great tool for therapists as well.
In this vein, your therapist needs to know what it’s like to “sit on the couch.” There is no training that can fully prepare someone for the emotional, mental, physical, even spiritual struggle that comes from being open and honest about the horrible and wonderful experiences of life. Having been on the other side, a therapist will be better prepared to hold space for their client in session. A therapist may not share with you that they have a history of alcoholism in their family or that they have been through the death of a child; that’s not their role in the room. But, having been there, they understand what you are going through. A therapist that is in therapy will also be more sensitive to the more mundane things, like how disruptive it can be if they take a vacation or call in sick.
A therapist that attends therapy is also a better therapist. They spend time working on their personal identity. They are more secure in themselves as a person. They will work through issues in their personal lives that could have an impact on the therapy if the client is dealing with similar issues. They will address their individual “blind spots” and be better able to address them in session. A therapist in therapy is also improving their professional skills. They understand that their role is one-sided and they will not engage in dual relationships. They learn how to maintain confidentiality and to be more empathetic. They may also try new approaches or techniques that their therapist uses. In their own therapy, therapists also work on burnout and what to do if they feel like their client’s progress has stalled.
Therapy is a valuable tool for everyone, including human beings who also happen to be therapists. Therapy allows people to work through past and current trauma, to learn more about themselves, and to make plans for the best future they can imagine. We are never done; we are never perfect. If we have stopped learning, growing, evolving; we have stopped living.