Therapist, Heal Thyself: When the Therapist Returns to Therapy

A client once asked me if I had ever been in therapy before. “Never trust a therapist who hasn’t” I responded.

Therapists, like everyone else, struggle with anxiety, depression, parenting, challenging work environments, and relationship issues. We’re not immune to the stress of daily life or the challenges from our own childhood. For me the past few weeks have been challenging as I’m in the middle of  change and I find myself anxious and emotionally exhausted.

During the past couple of months I batted around the idea of returning to therapy but always came back to feeling that I could manage these transitions. And that was true. I was journaling, talking to my husband and friends and felt supported and encouraged. I was managing change just fine, until I wasn’t. Finally after two weeks of high anxiety I decided to return to therapy.

I was a little nervous sending off that e-mail to the therapist. I gave her a brief rundown of what was going on and asked for an appointment. “What if she was on vacation? What would I do if she was too busy to fit me in? What if she couldn’t see me until the end of the summer? I finally decided that I need help and what if I can’t get it RIGHT NOW?” I thought to myself.

Fortunately she had availability and I made an appointment within 10 days. Just securing the appointment dropped my anxiety several notches. In the following days I felt like myself again. I was calmer, able to focus, and I generally felt lighter. And for a moment I considered cancelling the appointment. After all I don’t feel that anxious anymore. Maybe I’ll save my money, cancel the appointment, and enjoy the rest of my summer.

It was a very appealing thought.  But I also know that the fears and anxieties will resurface. Perhaps not for several months or even years but I know that there is something else there, something old and familiar that I do when facing major transitions. And this “something” hurts me and the people I love. So I am keeping the appointment to uncover this something and get on with it.

A client once told me that she looked at our website for six years before calling us for therapy services. I understand why it took her so long to walk through our doors. It’s scary and uncomfortable to talk a professional about your thoughts, emotions, and struggles of life. Even as a therapist and someone who truly believes in the benefits of therapy, I experienced my own desire to retreat, to stay quiet and private, and to manage it on my own. In the short-term it’s much easier and safer to deal with the aches and pains that you’re used to rather than get help to make the pain go away.

My therapy appointment is next week. As I return to the couch as a client I’m a little scared and apprehensive. But I’m also excited to see how I’ll change and grow in my personal life and in my career. In the coming weeks and months I’ll share my journey as a therapist being a client in therapy.

I recently started reading Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In and she asks the question, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” This blog post is what I would do.  Want to share the journey with me?

5 thoughts on “Therapist, Heal Thyself: When the Therapist Returns to Therapy”

  1. I didn’t know that therapists also see a therapist. It’s actually good to know that they do. It makes me think that even if they are therapist themselves, they also have issues that they can’t deal with by themselves and making me feel like it’s okay for an ordinary person like me to see one when i can no longer deal with some stuff in life.

    1. Yes! Sometimes people think that you have to be “crazy” to go to therapy. But therapy is really a place to deal with the hard parts of life that we all face at some point, even when we’re the therapist!

  2. Good luck on your therapy sessions. I’m actually surprised to know that you are seeing or have seen a therapist. I’ve never been into a therapy session but have actually been thinking about it. I have a lot of issues in life lately. I’ve always been open to friends and family members but this time, i feel like seeing a professional to help me. Anyway, hope you keep us posted.

  3. What a courageous post! I agree that sometimes it’s best for us to take our own medicine. It keeps us in touch with the other side of the therapeutic process and allows us to remain humble and human.

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