If my therapist helps me, then who helps them?

Updated: Feb 20



How Do Counsellors Get Help Themselves?


It’s a question that may or may not cross peoples minds. After all, how do therapists have the energy to help with clients on a regular basis and create the motivation to change someone’s life? I mean is it that easy for them? Or do they receive some form of support to help them in the process? Well let’s find out.


Despite being therapists, we are all human before that, so we have the same feelings as everyone else. Even though we have been trained to maintain composure, help to strengthen a client’s mindset and to develop and agree on goals, some sessions can be difficult than others and this can cause distress to therapists. If left unchecked long term, they may dread seeing that client altogether.


Therapists are not divine, they are constantly learning and staying up to date with new policies, ethical guidelines and methodological based treatment models. Sometimes therapy sessions emanates uncertainties in the therapist i.e. how best to work with clients and one way to address this is through supervision.


Supervision is a process of discussing anything related to psychotherapy and looks at the various cognitions affecting therapeutic progress. There are have been times the therapist is overwhelmed with clients that their own emotional needs are often left unchecked and this can be a dangerous monopoly that eventually catches up. In the U.K., supervision is mandatory especially for therapists who are registered with training and regulatory bodies. Let’s take a short case study (in this case it’s my own personal experience).


When I first started seeing clients, there were many things I needed to learn. This case study client expressed high symptoms of OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), and I didn’t have a clue as to how to help them and nor did it occur to me they were experiencing symptoms of OCD. As far as I knew, they were seen to be anxious. My supervisor thought otherwise. She simply stated that worry over hygiene was more associated with OCD which in fact is a specific type of anxiety disorder than any other type of anxiety. It was very obvious after I had ruminated over it so I changed my therapeutic style and started focusing on the client’s events that caused them anxiety around their problem and even going further back in their past to explore potential traumas that may have led to such anxieties, and as it turned out, past events seemed to be a recurring theme. Using cognitive behaviour techniques, I used a timeline strategy to help explore the events that led to the client’s anxieties. I eventually learned what the set of problems were and developed strategies that relieved some of the client’s symptoms.


Anyone with symptoms of OCD will resonate with the difficulties of reducing the worries that come with it. As this was a new experience for me, I learned the broad range of behaviours that OCD clients exhibit and I must say, it was an extremely exciting event for me to learn, develop and maximise my therapeutic skills. To be truthful, I thoroughly enjoy working with anxiety clients and no matter what challenges the client faces, I’m in it for the ride and willing to think outside the box. After all, isn’t that what therapists should be doing anyways rather than being very agreeable with the client’s opinions and assuming therapy is working well?


Overall, supervision is an extremely important process that helps maximise the therapist’s skill set and aims to reduce the conscious and unconscious processes that may otherwise affect the therapeutic relationship between client and therapist. Usually the supervisor is more experienced than the therapist liaising with them and this gives reassurance and helps to focus on weaknesses that need to be addressed within them.


So the next time someone is repeatedly checking objects, or time, re-ordering things that if left unchecked would cause them excessive worry, know that there may be an underlying and reasonable justification for it. Rather than dismissing such family members or friends, being supportive and acknowledging that such behaviours may be due to anxiety, could help the loved one in many ways.

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