Therapy for Therapists
No one knows the value of therapy better than therapists. And sometimes we want to use this powerful tool to help us reach our own goals for personal growth. Over the twenty-three years that I have been practicing in Santa Cruz, I have had the honor of seeing many therapists in my practice. I have learned from them some of the special concerns therapists may have when they are seeking therapy for themselves.
Strict confidentially is very important. There may be many mutual acquaintances therapists have in their professional and personal circles. And even subtle references to clients could easily compromise confidentiality. To feel safe, therapists need to know that their disclosures, and their presence in therapy, will be held in the strictest confidence. Confidentiality is the legal and ethical standard for all clients, but therapists understandably benefit from an explicit emphasis on this when they themselves become clients.
When therapists enter therapy, they deserve respect for the extensive understanding of the field they possess, even when they occupy the client role. It is important for the therapist of a therapist to establish a counseling partnership that is not subtly condescending or implying any sense of superiority. In fact, therapist-clients often know a great deal about what they are looking for in a therapist. And it is important for the therapist to listen well to both the self-expertise and the process-expertise the therapist-client already possesses.
Therapy for therapists can be particularly illuminating, however, when new approaches can also be brought into the work. Sometimes we get stuck approaching our growth in the same ways we always have. A fresh perspective from a different counseling orientation can provide a rich source of new self-knowledge and personal empowerment. So while a therapist of therapists must be respectful, he or she must also not be afraid to offer alternative approaches. With good rapport, both parties should be able to mutually assess the potential usefulness of any particular style of intervention.
Relaxed Presence & Good Boundaries
Therapists and their therapist-clients may find themselves in professional or social settings outside of therapy. Thus, it is important that the therapist have a relaxed presence and good boundaries both in the office and outside. Without this, encounters beyond the consulting room may be tense or awkward. To the degree that the therapist occupies his or her professional role in an authentic way, however, the distinction between social and clinical contact need not be difficult to navigate. A relaxed presence is also important when the therapy is over and the two parties return to a primarily collegial relationship.