I make no secret of the fact that I’ve been in therapy, am in therapy now and probably will be again in the future. In fact one of my regrets is that I didn’t start this current round of therapy sooner. But did you know that not all Australian psychologists have had their own experience of therapy?
My former private practice coach once expressed surprise to me about how many psychologists in Australia she came across that had never had their own psychotherapy. As an American this was completely unfathomable to her.
And it’s true. Unlike our overseas peers in the USA and UK, registered psychologists are not required to have therapy as part of their training. This means that there are therapists out there who haven’t had therapy. Because they don’t have to. Because they think they don’t need it.
Think about what that means.
At its most basic level, there are therapists who have no idea of what it feels like to be a client. To be vulnerable and open up about yourself to a stranger. To tell someone what isn’t going well in your life, and what’s hard for you. To put aside your shiny coping self you show the world and to let someone see you. What your frustrating habits are, what your relationship is really like, how hard you find parenting and friendships and what you struggle to understand about yourself and other humans.
At another level, it means there are therapists who haven’t deeply explored their own history and experiences and the lens they view the world with. Therapy assumes a non-judgmental stance but how do therapists who haven’t done therapy themselves know what their blind spots and biases even are?
One thing I know about us humans is we often don’t see ourselves all that clearly. We were once all children who learned ways of being in the world based on how our parents cared for us. How can a therapist know if their patterns are being activated by a client if they don’t have an awareness of what they are?
And on the most important level, it means these therapists aren’t allowing themselves to access therapy because they believe their needs aren’t as important as their clients. Or they don’t think they deserve to free themselves from the patterns they learned in their childhood and relationships.
There are lots of reasons therapists come up with as to why they’ve never had therapy such as
- I don’t have time
- I wouldn’t spend that kind of money on myself
- I don’t have a mental health diagnosis / I have no problems to work on in therapy
- I work with people who don’t trigger my issues
- I don’t know who to see, everyone knows everyone in my city
And these are my answers to those reasons
- We can find the time if we prioritize something. Using time as a reason is an avoidance behavior
- If you won’t spend that money on yourself, that’s a pattern. My needs don’t matter, I’m not worth it etc. That alone is worth addressing.
- You may not have a diagnosable disorder but you have patterns. Even in “good childhoods” patterns form. Children are like shape shifters who do what they need to to get attention and love from their parents. In my experience, therapists are drawn to become therapists because of the patterns they learned in childhood. It’s unlikely that you’re the only therapist who hasn’t ended up in the profession because of those patterns or schemas.
- No matter what client group you choose, there will be some clients or client behaviors that will trigger you because of your existing patterns
- Not knowing who to see or choose as your therapist is your fear of vulnerability speaking. There are many people you don’t know as a friend or a direct colleague and you need to give one a try. Just like we expect our clients take a leap of faith on a stranger when they start with us. It’s ok if you don’t gel with your first choice you can try with someone else.
If the only thing you get out of the experience of therapy is to know how hard it feels to be a client in the first couple of sessions then that’s worth it. Or to know what it feels like to have someone spend 50 minutes of time to help you reflect and be curious.
Or maybe you’ll learn an awesome technique or phrase to share with your clients. Good therapy also inspires us to keep doing the work we do with clients.
I think you will find you get a lot more than just as professional development to help you become a better therapist.
Good therapy helps you live more freely without patterns from the past. It helps you to know your authentic self, maybe even for the first time.
And we deserve that, just as much as our clients do.