Tag Archives: counseling

Thoughts on Psychotherapy for Therapists

Thoughts on Psychotherapy for Therapists

As a psychotherapist, you already know that “you are the tool.” And like any tool, it is important to stay in the best working order. I like to think about therapy for therapists in the same way I think about knives in the kitchen: a sharp one makes the work easier and safer, while a dull one makes the work harder and more dangerous.

Therapy for therapists falls into several categories. First, if you are a therapist who has not yet been in your own therapy (yes, a surprising number of graduate programs do not require their students to be in therapy), there is no time like the present to start. As well-trained as you may be, as good as you may be at your work, as much as your clients may love you, having had the experience of being a client is necessary and important. We are asking people to be courageous and vulnerable and we need to know for ourselves what that feels like. And unless you have done your own work, the work you will be able to do will always be limited.

Second, maybe you are a therapist who has had therapy but it has been a while. Or maybe your last therapist had an approach that was just fine back then, but your interests have changed or you feel like you just didn’t get as far or as deeply into the work as you would have liked. I have had the privilege of working with many therapists whose own approach is very different from mine, but who sought therapy with someone offering a different perspective. Therapists who have done this report that it has been helpful not only personally with respect to knowing themselves better, but also professionally in broadening their thinking about their own clients and approach to therapy.

Third, you don’t need another therapist to tell you how difficult and isolating this work can sometimes feel–you already know this. Our clients tell us many difficult things, things that we are not at liberty to share with others. Being in our own therapy offers a safe and confidential place to talk about the many stressors we encounter in our work. It can help us to look at how our own experiences, belief systems, blocks, and unresolved issues might get in the way of our work. It gives us an important and protected space to not have to try to get it right, to be able to let down our guard. We are not always our own best observer. As Thomas Ogden says when discussing the ideas of psychoanalyst Wilfred Bion, “It requires two minds to think one’s most disturbing thoughts.” (Ogden, T. Bion’s Four Principles of Mental Functioning. 2008. Fort Da 148: 11-35)

Finally, seeing a therapist yourself is a terrific way to observe–up close and Very personal–another therapist at work. Sure, you are likely in a consultation group or two and you have had plenty of supervision, but talking with colleagues and supervisors is a very different from the direct experience of sitting across from another therapist as a client. It offers a unique opportunity to simultaneously be able to be inside the mind of the client (you!) and hear how a therapist responds.

Even if you have been in therapy before, returning to therapy from time to time over the course of your career can offer new insights, as each therapist is different and you will learn different things from the experience. With so many therapists now working online, this is a great time to find someone you might want to work with without the limitation of having to choose based on distance from your home or office. It also offers the opportunity to minimize the chance of conflicts by working with a therapist outside of your professional circles. Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, I am licensed in California, Colorado, and Illinois; and I am a Florida Registered Telehealth Provider. I welcome inquiries from therapists in any of these states.

Questions about psychotherapy or about my approach to psychotherapy? Please see my website at www.marlacass.com and contact me at: 415-218-2442 (phone link works from smartphones only) or at info@marlacass.com.