Therapists’ Therapists

It’s a well known fact that a majority of people who go into the field of psychology do so because we—I mean they—are self-absorbed and trying to figure out why they are such human train-wrecks.  They self-diagnose, bolster their negative behaviors with justifications born from that self-diagnosis and then set about diagnosing everyone else and recommending therapy, all while avoiding engaging in therapy for themselves.

To help compound the failure of future mental health professionals to seek much-needed help, grad school programs for such people often fail to require that students engage in even a minimal amount of therapy.  There are roughly 12 billion reasons why this should be a requirement, and essentially only one reason why would-be-therapists reject the idea that they should get therapy: “I don’t need it.”

But therapists and would-be-therapists arguing that they don’t need therapy, is like meth-heads arguing that they don’t need dental care.   It’s the voice of fear, not confidence.  Or if it is confidence, it’s confidence born of meth—at least for most of the meth-heads, and a few of the therapists.  It’s saying ‘I’ve messed around in my stuff enough, and don’t need anybody else poking around in there, because Lord knows it could all come crumbling apart like that bust of Martha Plimpton I made out of things I picked off my scalp, after I forgot to mist it for four days running.’

And, really, if a student is going through a Master’s program to become a therapist, and doesn’t have at least one or two experiences that frighten/disturb that student into recognizing her/his need for therapy, that student is either the most together person ever, or has built up such impenetrable defenses around his/her frail psyche that she/he is probably in danger of eventually dismembering, freezing, and eating his/her clients bit by bit—either metaphorically or for reals.  (Or else the student is just in a really shitty program where he/she never actually gets challenged to explore much of anything about her/himself beyond early childhood experiences that contributed to his/her preference for natural fibers over synthetics or vice versa).

A large number of mental health professionals, and people in what are dubbed the ‘helping professions’ have a sense that they need to exude confidence, avoid negativity and doubt, and just generally have, or appear to have, their crap together across the full range of life activities.  Any admission that such is not the case can be looked on as an admission that one is not fit to help others.  The big twist, of course, is that if one can’t admit when one needs help, and stop trying to fix everything for everyone else, one really does start to lose the ability to be effective at providing help for anyone, oneself included.

As a confession of sorts, I am not currently seeing a therapist—not because I feel I wouldn’t benefit from it, but because I like to pretend I’m together enough to recognize when I need to seek help, and also because I kind of like the idea of seeing what would happen if I let everything just completely go to hell.  On top of that, I am what I would call ‘therapy-resistant.’  I approach therapy like a jealous magician watching another magician’s show—noting the ‘re-directions,’ and countering with an extra helping of defense mechanisms—‘Just try and abracadabra your way out of that underwater straitjacket, before my Buick hits your milk can, buddy.’  Okay, I don’t really own a Buick.

But, what the hell—I was trying to say something about the problem with therapists not actually getting therapy, and then presented myself as an exhibit to bolster that argument.  But don’t worry about me. I’m completely together.   And I like cotton more than rayon.

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