Here are a few things that everyone should know about therapists:
- They are not perfect: But no one said they were! Therapists are subject to the same life dilemmas as anyone else: there are times when therapists get divorced, have arguments with family members, feel depressed, are not the perfect parent, etc. Do you expect your doctor to never get sick? Do you expect your mechanic to never need an oil change? Of course not, because that would be proposterous! Just because a therapist chooses to become a mental health clinician does not mean that they believe they are immune to ever making an interpersonal mistake. It does not mean that they are guaranteed to never feel depressed for the rest of their life…and if they do, that they are a terrible therapist that should never have selected this profession! Therapists are humans with everyday human problems of their own. But that doesn’t affect their ability to help others! Therapists have had extensive schooling and experience, and have learned a number of theories, interventions, tools and techniques that are proven to be effective in helping individuals with both minor and major mental health issues. If they are licensed, then one can reasonably assume that they are qualified professionals. Experts in the field…but not necessarily infallible themselves.
- They are not all-knowing: Therapists cannot tell the future and cannot read your fortune. They don’t have all of the answers to your problems. (Sorry to burst your bubble.) But what therapists can do is make you feel heard. They will validate your feelings, help you to gain insight, allow you to see various perspectives, make connections that you may not have otherwise noticed, provide you with helpful tools to practice on your own, and more.
- They joined the field because they want to help people: One thing that all therapists have in common is the passion to help people and make a difference through their work. Many therapists have, at one time or another, gone through a difficult personal experience that inspired them to want to join the mental health field and pay it forward. Many therapists have been, or continue to be, depressed or anxious. Again, they are human and are not infallible. One thing to remember as a client, however, is that the therapist’s personal experiences should never have any ability to adversely affect their clients’ progress. If a therapist were to determine that they cannot ultimately treat a case without undue bias, then they are ethically obligated to refer the patient out. These ethical standards are in place because all major associations acknowledge that therapists are people with their own life experiences that could potentially get in the way of their ability to maintain neutrality when providing therapy. Remember, therapists do not need to have perfect lives in order to be helpful to others. They are extensively trained in the helping profession, and they are endowed with the passion to make positive change.
- Therapists need self-care too: Therapists take no shame in using the the same tools that they provide their clients with. Therapists need to practice mindfulness at times, deep breathe, or even use progressive muscle relaxation techniques. Therapists practice sleep hygiene, positive self-affirmations, and even read self-help books. Why the heck wouldn’t they? They know good advice when they see it, and they don’t hesitate to practice what they preach. Does it make them weak? NO! It makes them savvy.
- They are not analyzing anyone and everyone they talk to: This is a major misconception. Applying theory to any case takes extensive time, patience, and a thorough understanding of the individual’s family system and context. Therapists can spot patterns and are equipped at identifying symptoms of mental disorders, but they cannot have you figured out from a 5-minute conversation. People are complex; they are not as simple as one might think.