Therapy for therapists is an intriguing proposition, and one that I hadn’t even begun to consider until undertook the quest to becoming a therapist myself. Although many of my classmates appeared to endorse the “encouraged but not required” position, I think therapy for therapists should be required for a license. I believe that an imperative part of being an effective clinician is being able to experience being on the “other side of the table.” I know this was a valuable experience for me in my teacher training. Not only were we required to attend classes and perform all the other scholarly duties of a teacher in training, but we were required to conduct peer reviews. In that respect, I would take the response one step further to include peer review and some experience with supervision to be included as part of the pre-requisite for licensure. I think we should be required to familiarize ourselves with every perspective in the process, and be able to function effectively in all those areas.
I have participated in psychotherapy sessions as a client, and I think everyone should make that attempt at some point in their lives. I think it’s inevitable that we all encounter stressors that would justify getting some help. I can’t imagine a possible scenario where they would allow a teacher to teach without first teaching them how to be a good student, and I believe that same logic can be applied to therapy.
The role of our personal values in a counseling relationship is a challenging ethical concept. Even the most well intentioned and cautious clinician will be influenced, even inadvertently, by his or her values. Imposing our own values on a client is a treacherous proposition, and it risks compromising our objectivity. Some relativists would argue that such objectivity is an illusion, and that it is wholly unobtainable.
Initially, I am not entirely sure I saw a conflict with exposing my values (without imposing them on the client). After additional reflection, I am not sure that I am entirely comfortable exposing my values during the course of the interview process. Perception is reality, and I would have no control over the client’s interpretation of the values that were exposed. Despite my best efforts and good intentions, exposing my values would open a number of different variables that could be counterproductive to the interview process.
For example, if my values differed greatly from those of my client, I could risk alienating the client to the degree that they may come to the conclusion that our values differ too much to continue the counseling relationship. The end result is a referral at best, or the client ceasing to pursue psychotherapy as a treatment method all together.
It’s your turn! I am seeking out strategies I can employ that will help me contain the potential damage associated with exposing my underlying core values. How much does your therapist share with you?
I would like to learn to avoid comparing and contrasting client values with my own. This is an overwhelming task given that I have a natural inclination to establish rapport by doing just that. Does your therapist compare and contrast their values with yours?