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Should Therapists Seek Their Own Counseling?

A therapist cannot expect someone to make behavioral changes if they are not fully committed to the counseling process. That being said, how can one be expected to take the risk of changing if the client’s own counselor is reluctant to have his issues scrutinized? I am perplexed by the number of therapists who have never experienced the counseling process for themselves. Fortunately, many educational institutions that educate therapists mandate counseling as an aspect of their training program. In my opinion, no therapist should be licensed without having experienced the counseling process as a patient. How can a therapist identify with his clients if he has never sat in the other chair?

Beyond the issue of identification, many counselors need to be in the client chair. Are we to assume because of their role, a counselor has no emotional baggage to be explored? The issue of counselor burnout, transference, and counter-transference is a significant one. No training program by itself can assist a therapist with on-going problems with his own personal issues. Transference is the process whereby a client projects feelings onto the therapist. The feelings may be anger, mistrust, sexual feelings, or approval needs. Sometimes it is difficult for the counselor to maintain a sense of detachment from a client’s projected feelings. Getting hooked by a client may cause unnecessary stress. Counter-transference is the process wherein the therapist identifies with the patient’s problems in a way that is not helpful to the therapeutic alliance. The counselor may be experiencing issues similar to the patient and counselor’s feelings may infringe on the counseling process. The counselor may have a particular bias and that perception may impede progress. A counselor may also have unresolved issues that interfere with treatment. The client may sense this fact and may terminate therapy for that reason.

Nevertheless, those who conduct therapy do not need to have every issue resolved in their personal life to be effective. The point is that those who are entrusted to help others need to be aware of potential ways that their biases, feelings, thoughts, and behaviors can influence others in a negative way. Counselors need to seek the support of colleagues, supervisors, or therapist when conflicts occur which affect a collaborative relationship with patients. Counselors have an ethical obligation to refer patients who they are uncomfortable in treating to other therapist. For example, those counselors who are troubled by dealing with sexual predators should waste no time in referring such patients to a treatment facility or counselor who deals with this special client population

James P. Krehbiel, Ed.S., LPC, CCBT is an author, freelance writer, and cognitive-behavioral therapist practicing in Scottsdale, Arizona. He recently released Stepping Out of the Bubble available through www.amazon.com. James can be reached at www.krehbielcounseling.com.

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James P. Krehbiel, Ed.S., LPC, CCBT is an author, freelance writer and nationally certified cognitive-behavioral therapist practicing in Scottsdale, Arizona. He received his post-graduate counseling training at Northern Illinois University. James has taught Master's level classes in counselor education through Chapman University of California.  He specializes in working with patients who have depressive, anxiety, pain management and autistic spectrum disorders.  James has written numerous articles on a variety of counseling-related topics, all available via Google searches.  His first book, Stepping Out of the Bubble, is available at www.booklocker.com.  James is in the process of having his second work published which is entitled, It Never Was About You:  Saying Goodbye to the Magical Illusions of Childhood.  He can be reached through his new, contemporary website at www.krehbielcounseling.com

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