Therapists are the heroes of mental health — after all, they help people cope with their problems and be healthier mentally and psychologically. Without therapists, many people would have no idea how to deal with their respective issues. However, if you’re a therapist and you’re experiencing issues of your own, there is no shame in seeking the help of another therapist.
If you’re unsure whether you need another therapist’s help, or if you’re also a client who thinks your therapist may benefit from therapy, there are signs to look out for.
Therapists are People, Too
It’s important to remember that as a psychologist or a therapist, you are also a person, and thus you, too, may need therapy from time to time.
You can absorb the pain and struggles that your patients are dealing with, but therapists are human beings, susceptible to any ailments you are exposed to. Sometimes these ailments can be mental, and just like catching a cold, therapists aren’t immune to mental strife.
Like your clients, you, too, need adequate attention in order to get yourself back into shape. It can be difficult. However, you are not alone in experiencing these kinds of difficulties.
As a therapist, you know that therapy can provide relief. If it helps other people, it can help you, too.
- Therapy doesn’t make you seem inadequate. Remember, you can’t help other people if you’re not willing to get help yourself.
- Therapy doesn’t mean something is wrong with you. It just means that there are some parts of yourself that need reassessment, and sometimes the best way to do this is with another qualified professional.
Risk Factors for Therapists
The nature of work that you face may predispose you to experience certain problems, like burnout, vicarious traumatization, and compassion fatigue. Some therapists also experience intense countertransference and may have a history of personal trauma, both of which may lead to an increased chance of burnout.
When it comes to burnout, therapists and psychologists are at risk for several reasons:
- Therapist tends to put others’ needs before their own.
- They must control their emotions when faced with clients’ trauma and intense emotions.
- They may have a heightened sensitivity to people and the environment
- The nature of the job may lead to a sense of isolation
How do You Know if You Need Therapy?
Sometimes, the signs you’re looking for are already there. They can lurk beneath “normal” behavior or precede sudden behavioral changes. The earlier you become aware that these are symptoms of more pressing health issues, the sooner you can address them.
Some symptoms include:
1. You Are Not “Yourself”
If you experience uncontrollable feelings of hopelessness, anger, or sadness, these can be signs of mental health issues that you can alleviate with treatment. These include:
- Unhealthy habits such as overeating or eating less.
- Not getting enough sleep or getting too much sleep.
- Withdrawal from friends and family.
- You find yourself experiencing intense personal distress when engaged in clinical work.
These problems can negatively impact your quality of life. If you come to the point that you have thoughts of suicide and death, then you should reach out for help immediately.
2. You Are Starting to Abuse Yourself
It’s not bad to participate in activities such as drinking or having sex with your partner. However, if you’re using alcohol, drugs, or sex to cope with your issues, or if you feel that you aren’t able to control these behaviors, then it may be time to see a therapist of your own.
3. Grief and History are Powerful Indicators
Grief can be extremely difficult to handle, especially if you’ve lost someone or something important. Similarly, hearing clients’ stories of abuse, trauma, or neglect may remind you of similar issues in your own life. If you haven’t addressed grief or your personal history, it can affect your clinical work and your general well-being. Without the guide of an expert, anyone — even therapists — can feel emotional distress.
4. You’ve Lost Passion
We all have things we enjoy. But if you lose the drive to do those things, this can be a red flag you should not ignore. After all, these are activities we usually delight in. If our painful experiences and emotions keep us from fully enjoying ourselves, then it may be time to see another therapist for help.
Is My Own Therapy Necessary?
Psychology Today elaborates that different countries have different “requirements” for psychotherapists to be accredited, licensed and certified.
- In Europe, some countries require psychiatrists-to-be to have some hours of personal therapy as well.
- In the United States, however, only some psychoanalytic training institutes and some graduate programs require personal therapy courses.
While therapy may not always be required, there is ample research that speaks to the upside of being in your own therapy if you’re training to be a therapist.
The Benefits of Therapists Undergoing Therapy
It’s said that sometimes, therapists who know what it’s like to be on the proverbial “other side” of the chair may relate more to patients. They may also be more able to understand feelings that emerge during therapy but are not spoken directly, as they have first-hand experience of this as well.
While some books, blogs, lectures, and textbooks may teach therapists things about certain therapy “activities,” unless one experiences these for oneself, they can’t be fully appreciated.
- 96% of psychologists who received personal therapy considered it an essential prerequisite for practicing clinical work.
- Therapists who undergo therapy themselves have a good grasp of emotional reactions, especially those in real time.
- Therapists who participate in group psychotherapy or support groups develop a good grasp of support groups because they have been in one of their own.
- Researchers also found that among all the things that helped therapists develop their skills, personal therapy came in third. It came ahead of educational experiences and next to direct patient contact and supervision.
- Other experts state that therapy improves therapists’ clinical work by:
- Alleviating work stress
- Improving their emotional and mental function
- Placing them in the role of the client
- Providing them with a fuller understanding of personal and interpersonal dynamics and conflict
- Allowing for a first-hand, intensive opportunity to observe clinical methods
- Socializing them to validity and power of psychotherapy
If you’re a therapist, always remember that you’re not immune from the demands of the job, and you always have the option of working with a therapist of your own. Your mental health and welfare are just as important as your clients’. After all, you’re only human.
It’s also important to remember that we have to be one step ahead of our mental health game as we have clients who look up to us for consultations and advice, as well.
If you’re experiencing any issues that you think may be resolved with the help of a therapist, don’t hesitate to contact a therapist you trust. After all, even therapists may need therapy as well.