When you think of your therapist, do you ever wonder if they have a therapist? The real question in my opinion is, why not?
When I started my journey to becoming a licensed therapist, I had heard stories of why you should never let people know that you also seek support from a therapist. I was told that if I tell others that I am in therapy, it will discredit me as a professional. That people outside of the mental health field that others would think me not capable of handling my profession or to hold space for them.
I am here to tell you that, as I have grown in my own self-awareness, my personal and professional life. I continually work to learn within my career field how to navigate this conversation with clients.
To help explain why I believe that everyone can benefit from seeking the support of a therapist (including therapists) I will give you a little background. I served 14 years in the United States Army as a combat medic and served three combat tours. In that time, I experienced many situations, some good and some bad. Of those experiences, not all were attributed to my military service, I did have a personal life after all. So, it is safe to say that I dealt with my fair share of stress, symptoms of anxiety and depression and also post-traumatic stress due to different traumatic experiences. Like many people, especially service members, I put off my mental health for fear of being identified as a weak link.
I finally took the initiative to see a professional about my symptoms a few years after my third deployment. It was then that I began to see that I was allowing the thoughts and opinions of others dictate my seeking the care I needed to be mentally healthy. During the next few years and moves, thanks to the military, I sought support through individual sessions and even some group sessions when available. I did not always connect with my assigned provider, but I was determined to find what a better me looked like.
So, what did I find?
I found that not all therapists are the same and there are more techniques in addressing mental health than what is portrayed by Hollywood. It is not always someone sitting across from your rarely engaging in eye contact while scribbling on a note pad. It is not always sitting in a circle and meditating around the clock. I saw therapist that I really liked, felt supported by, challenged me to work on the root of my problems. I also saw some that I did not feel met my needs or my needed style of support. It allowed me the opportunity to work on myself while identifying what resonated with me and my journey of healing.
So, when I decided that becoming a licensed therapist after serving in the Army, I brought along my compiled list of dos and don’ts.
I vowed to myself that I would be the therapist that I always wanted to support me. I vowed that I would always be the person who continued to work on myself regardless of how my life was currently going. In the military there is a saying of, “Lead from the front”, so that is what I try to do.
It is so important to remember that we all have issues in life and that we all could use extra support from time to time. If I, as a therapist cannot admit my faults, my stuck points, and those areas where I need help. How am I going to be the one supporting my clients effectively? Therapists have families, daily stress, career stress and face personal conflict from time to time. We should be taking time to hold space for ourselves to address the issues being faced so that we may be able to hold space for our clients.
You would not want a therapist that is losing focus during your session because they are thinking or stressing about a particular family situation, right? So, why wouldn’t a therapist benefit from the support of a therapist like you? So next time you are sitting in session and that thought pops into the back of your mind, you might already know the answer. Remember, your therapist seeing a therapist of their own is allowing them to be their best self in support of you.