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The Therapist in Therapy

Updated on July 18, 2010

Most Mental Health Therapists go into the field because they have the internal need and desire to help others with their problems. Some work with children, adults, special needs and other populations. But all of them eventually hit a point in their career where they become highly stressed or burnt out.

Back in the 1930s according to Sigmund Freud,"every analyst ought periodically to enter analysis once more, at intervals of, say, five years, and without any feeling of shame in doing so."

In some schools of social work and psychology programs, it is often suggested that students engage in therapy themselves periodically throughout their career in order to identify issues of their own which may interfere in the healing process with their clients.

Regardless of the years of training and experience an individual therapist may have, they are also human and not above suffering from depression, anxiety, ADHD, bipolar disorder, or any of the other psychiatric diagnosis found in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual for mental health conditions.

Research to Answer the Hypothesis of the Therapist in Therapy

In the research done by this writer to find material for this topic, only one full study completed by Kenneth S. Pope and Barbara G. Tabachnick was discovered which discussed this area. The purpose of the study was three fold:

  1. To gather exploratory data about therapists' beliefs about problems leading to, and experiences in therapy, and to examine relationships among these and other variables.
  2. To determine whether confirmation of the three findings from previous studies noted above would emerge
  3. To gather data to address additional hypothesis or questions

By sending out 800 survey forms to psychologists (400 men and 400 women) who were randomly selected from the American Psychological Association's Divisions, the study was begun.

A total of four hundred and seventy-six psychologists returned usable forms, making the return rate 59.5%. It appeared that more females answered the survey than men, and most of them were in the 41 to 50 age bracket.

Interestingly, most of the respondents reported having been a patient or client in therapy for an average time of 4 years. The focus of therapy for most of the participants was on depression or general unhappiness with one hundred and thirty three of who benefitted from self- awareness and self-understanding.

Research Discussion to Display Results of the Study

When reading a research paper, one must consider that there are possible non-accurate answers (variables) within the paper which may skew the results.

In the above research however, it appeared that many psychologists engaged in therapy at one time or other in his or her career and that being a therapist does not exclude he or she from feelings of depression, low self worth, or sadness.

What is interesting to note is that with most of the participants in the above study 70% believed that "psychology graduate and professional schools should 'probably' or 'absolutely' require therapy for therapists- in -training"

Recommendations for Therapy

Based on the results of the above study, related books and articles, and this writer's personal experience, Therapist's should be recommended to attend therapy throughout their career periodically in order to assist them in maintaining their own mental and emotional health.

Listening to others day by day, hearing sad and depressing stories, and having no one to vent to or process with can make for a lonely and isolated individual. Going to therapy should not be something to avoid but a place where one feels welcome and is able to share unconditionally. Therapists need to remember that they are not above suffering from clinical depression simply based on the nature of what they do.

There are several books out which discuss therapists taking care of self that could assist anyone who is in this field.

Just remember, if the desire is to help others in the best possible manner, while also helping oneself grow emotionally, spiritually, mentally: you may consider therapy for yourself. It just might make you a better person as well as a superb therapist.


Freud, 1937 to 1963

Pope and Tabachnick. Therapists as Patients Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, vol. 25, # 3, pages 247-258,

Man in Therapy

Man in Therapy by Endostock
Man in Therapy by Endostock


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