Why would anyone want to be advised by a therapist who is struggling with depression, addiction, a failed marriage or whatever? If a therapist can’t heal themselves, how can they help you?

Over the past few years a trend has developed where people including celebrities, have written about overcoming their emotional difficulties, giving encouragement and advice on how to do the same. These are brave stories that may have helped many. Some have even gone on to take courses and become ‘therapists’ or ‘life coaches’, using their issues that have become part of their identity, to sell more books.

Indeed, everyone is now being encouraged to tell their inspirational story of overcoming challenges, in order to provide credibility to whatever they wish to sell. Some therapists have even begun to align themselves with right-wing political ideologies, which many may find difficult to understand. But it does of course provide publicity.

And yet it seems there are even more unhappy people than ever before.

The self-help industry has now become a multi-billion dollar industry with people queuing up, hoping for the next fix and sadly, there are many providing this fix. But with any fix, there is a downer and in time, people will only want more if the addiction isn’t satisfied.

As with most things, there comes a point when we need to stop and analyse the situation:

The sort of therapists we’re talking about here, are referred to as “wounded healers”. Why? Because via their experiences, they can provide valuable insight into issues that others may not understand. But, herein lies a warning. Just because someone seems articulate and has written a book or books, or just because they are famous or have credentials behind their name, does not mean that they have actually overcome their own demons or that they can provide specialised knowledge.

This is worrying.

If the role of a therapist is to be taken seriously, then along with a rigorous training, should come the realisation of the responsibility that the job entails. Vulnerable people knock at the door and expect a therapist to help heal their issues that are sometimes extremely complex, and which only a trained or licensed therapist with specialised training, can help with.

In other words, therapists will have trained in certain areas: Some are psychoanalysts, some are counsellors, some are therapists, some are relationship therapists, some are sex therapists, etc. Although there may be a crossover in certain subjects, unless someone is a trained relationship therapist for example, they shouldn’t be providing relationship advice, and so on.

Also, Alice Miller, a Polish-Swiss Psychologist, offered this advice to trainee therapists: “Your client will only ever go as far as you have gone.” This was to encourage trainee therapists to seek out the necessary therapy or healing required in order to ‘heal thyself’, in order to help clients heal.

But during training, often trainees aren’t always scrutinised, to check whether they have indeed, healed or even addressed their own issues sufficiently. It is only hoped that as they’ve managed to stay the course, that they would’ve done good enough work on themselves. This is why in some cases, therapy is encouraged even after a training is completed.

Sadly though, there are therapists who continue to see clients whilst still battling with a few serious issues, be it depression, addiction or any of the pressures of life today. And many do this simply because they have a mortgage or children’s school fees to pay. There is therefore less commitment to the client as they’re still busy helping themselves.

Years ago, Carl Jung explained that, “The soul would rather die than face itself.”

This is because becoming vulnerable and facing any trauma takes enormous courage and many will run a mile before facing their past. They may like to be seen to be doing the work – yet deep down it’s only a front for what actually lies beneath.

This is why some may get defensive or angry if you dare come close to the truth. They’ll find all sorts of ways of avoiding issues, and if they are clever, they’ll devise every technique in the book to keep you at bay. And they’ll keep you guessing for years, as their defences are often flawless. They’ll intellectualise, act all-knowing or they’ll find various causes ‘outside’ themselves, because ‘inside’ they’re terrified of what they may find.

Sadly, this means that they will keep going round and round in emotional circles, finding themselves back in rehab, or back on the sofa, wanting to heal but too terrified to do so.

And if this is your therapist, they certainly won’t be able to help you.

This is however, not to discourage you. There are many skilled and highly talented therapists out there. And one of the best ways to find a therapist is through word of mouth, as this ensures excellence.

Tao Te Ching once said that, “When the student is ready the teacher will appear. When the student is truly ready, the teacher will disappear.”

But do beware of therapists who declare they are still working through their issues either via their books or interviews. This is a red flag and a flag that should be waved vigorously as a warning to stay well clear.

Deidré Wallace is a relationship therapist and educator. She has had a private practice for the past 20 years. For more information, visit her blog website here: https://relationshipknowledge.com/