In the past year I have read a lot of material on the subject of psychotherapy and psychology and all things pertaining to said topic. And I've done this because well I started seeing a therapist for the first time ever in my forty something years of living just last summer and is usually the case with me I have to get my hands on as much information as I can so I can know what the hell is going on and blah, blah, blah. Some people would accuse me of having 'control issues' and to that I would say that if wanting (ok needing) to educate myself about something as personally relevant as being in therapy means having control issues well then a control freak I am. If needing control is wrong then I don't want to be right.
Anyway, enough about me. Here's the thing. In my travels through the psychotherapy/psychology literature which includes blogs and discussion groups and books, etc. I have come to realize that a lot and by a lot I mean A LOT of people become therapists because they have been in therapy and (presumably) had a good experience. I'm cool with that. But what I'm also noticing is that many of these same people who become therapists after being in therapy (and frequently still are in therapy) have and continue to have significant psychological problems, issues, maladies, choose your word. And I read this stuff and while I think it wonderful that people are brave enough to acknowledge their need for help and do their best to get that help via the therapy process I then think to myself "hmm, would I want this person to be my therapist? Would I want someone who is so clearly still working through their own 'stuff' treating me?". And the short answer is "nope".
Now let me just make one thing very clear, in no way do I discount the validity of someone who has had in the past significant psychological and/or emotional (I think they sort of go together no?) issues becoming a therapist. Quite the contrary actually. I am a firm believer in personal experience being exceptionally relevant in the helping professions. For example I honestly think that somebody who has never experienced depression can never understand the difficulty involved in dealing with depression and one thing I have come to appreciate is that there are many areas in which the understanding expressed by my therapist is paramount to me. Sometimes just plain acceptance is enough but at other times it is clear that she understands what I am saying and I can tell that it is not just at an intellectual level. I'm not necessarily suggesting that it is experiential on her part – I do not know. But it is obvious by her responses that she gets it. And that matters.
But here's the thing: at times I need her to be stronger than me – and I would interject here that I do not think that there are a whole lot of people out there who are in fact stronger than me - or at least I need to know that she can take me, that she can withstand the sometimes intense emotions that I am feeling without being repelled or afraid or just plain nervous. And I honestly doubt that if she is in the throes of her own deep depression or substance abuse issues or whatever that she will be able to handle my stuff. I think it is safe to say that if I found out that she was in the throes of her own deep stuff that I would have to leave her. I would hate it because frankly I have become rather fond of her but I know that I would have to leave her.
I guess this falls under the heading of "Physician Heal Thyself" and I would add "Before Thy Attempts to Heal Others".
And I wonder, am I wrong?