Therapists are human too!
I wanted to write this article as a way of reducing the perception of 'perfection' that many new clients have around therapists. After all, if we were perfectly fully functioning people, then how could we even attempt to understand what you are going through?
Therapists have been through stuff like everyone else, and this is a big part of what helps us to help you! Our ability as therapists to accept our clients without judgment (through our own experiences), makes us more human than ever and our authenticity further facilitates each and every client’s individual process.
Before qualifying as a psychotherapist, I underwent therapy many times for mental health issues and always felt a little intimidated by therapists - through my own internal perception of the 'all knowing' therapist. However, when I started my training, I found this to be completely untrue.
It was apparent when sharing life experiences with other students, that the majority of us had been through a great deal in terms of battling mental health issues. This is what had motivated us all to help others in similar situations.
Some people had experienced addiction, while others had experienced previous trauma which had led to PTSD. Others were still currently managing mental health issues (like myself) and the more I listened, the more my belief of who a therapist 'should be' began to change.
Carl Rogers, the founder of person-centred therapy stated, “The curious paradox, is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” The self-acceptance I experienced facilitated my efforts in changing my beliefs around what type of person I thought I should be as a therapist.
I do in fact still struggle sometimes and I'm not ashamed to say it! If I were to sit here and state that my mental health issues are now completely diminished, I would be a liar and a disingenuous therapist at that. The importance of genuineness in my profession greatly outweighs dishonesty.
After all, how can we as therapists encourage clients to work openly and honestly, if we are not willing to do this ourselves?
My experience of mental ill-health is based primarily around anxiety and depression. Through managing this for some years now, I have acknowledged the importance of accepting that it is OK not to be OK. By doing this, I am now able to use my own self-acceptance to help others begin to accept themselves too.
So yes, as therapists we are still only human and by no means are we philosophers of how to live a perfect life through our own personal and present experiences. However, our humanity and acceptance of our own strengths and vulnerabilities of our authentic self are what moulds us into the therapists we are today. This, in turn, allows us to listen with a great deal of compassion and understanding.
Yes, we might challenge your thoughts, but by doing this we aim to facilitate your process through encouraging your own self-exploration - not because we personally have the answers to the so-called 'perfect way of living life'.
So remember, you are still talking to a real person! I do hope this article helps a little in supporting your decision to access personal therapy.
If you found this article useful, you might like:
Find a therapist dealing with anxiety
All therapists are verified professionals.