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Normalizing the Idea of Therapy for Therapists

2 Minute Read

Like anyone else, therapists are subject to face challenges and emotional burdens that can impact their mental health. The roots of this can relate to matters in their own personal lives as well as the heavy emotional demands that coincide with their line of work. 

While therapists are well-versed in how impactful therapy can be for their mental health care, that doesn’t mean they always seek out support when it’s needed. As noted in a Counseling Today article, therapists can negatively associate the idea of therapy with being a “wounded healer” — someone perceived too damaged to help others. It’s these kinds of labels that can give therapists pause when it comes to seeking therapy services.

Here, we’ll unpack some more of the reasons why the idea of therapy for therapists can sometimes feel taboo, and how to normalize this concept.

Reasons Why Therapists Are Reluctant to Seek Out Therapy

1. Fear of Judgment

To be a support system to their patients, therapists often feel they need to embody a person that is emotionally resilient, to the point of seeming invincible. Seeking out therapy can feel like they’re showing cracks in their mental health, which can lead to concerns over how people perceive them in their professional role. This fear of judgment applies not only to patients, but also to colleagues, supervisors, and other mental health professionals.

2. Fear of Professional Consequences

Therapists may worry that the decision to seek therapy will be misconstrued as an inability to deal with the emotional demands of their job. There can be a fear that if colleagues and supervisors found out, there could be a negative impact on their reputation in the mental health professional community as well as on potential opportunities for advancement. At the same time, therapists may be concerned about a shift in power dynamics within their professional organizations. The thought is that people in positions of authority will view them as less capable of doing their job, or in need of additional support.

One of the reasons therapy can be a stressor for mental health professionals, like the one shown here, is that it could raise awareness that they are having difficulty doing their job

3. Time Constraints

In a 2022 survey from the American Psychological Association (APA), six out of 10 psychologists reported that they no longer have openings for new patients. And 46% of those surveyed said they’ve been unable to meet treatment demands. One of the big takeaways from this research is that therapists are operating under demanding schedules. A lack of time can lead therapists to prioritize work responsibilities and put their own struggles on the back burner.

The Answer: Creating a Culture of Self-Care for Therapists

In the aftermath of the pandemic, views on mental health in the workplace have shifted considerably. Leslie Hammer, Ph.D., a professor in the Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences at Oregon Health and Science University, said it well in an APA article:

“The pandemic forced employers to recognize that they must pay more attention to the mental health of employees, and that the conditions in the work environment can either exacerbate or prevent mental health challenges.”

By establishing a culture of self-care, supervisors at behavioral health facilities can help normalize the idea of therapy for therapists. When therapists are encouraged to prioritize their own mental health and take proactive steps toward self-improvement, they’ll see therapy services as more of something to embrace versus hide away from. 

A workplace culture of self-care can encourage licensed therapists, like the one shown here, to engage in talk therapy with a licensed psychologist and open up about any stressors in their personal life or work life

One of the most powerful self-care tools is dialogue. Having open communications about mental health, whether in the context of a supervisor check-in or a peer support group, can give therapists a structured space for self-reflection and the comfort to seek assistance.

Self-care should also be integrated into an organization’s policies — and even the office design. While implementing policies that encourage regular breaks during the workday, you could add designated spaces to your facility where therapists can pause and relax. Flexible scheduling options and professional development opportunities further support a workplace where therapists are continually reminded to prioritize their mental health.

A licensed therapist in clinical psychology meets with a patient virtually, a flexible option that private practices and other facilities can offer their mental health professionals

And lastly, and perhaps the most direct way to normalize the idea of therapy for therapists, is to actively promote therapy services to your facility’s providers. By establishing partnerships with other mental health providers, you can help therapists feel supported in seeking out therapy services and provide them with a more convenient way to access them.

With these strategies, we can create a more resilient community of helpers and make therapists even bigger role models in the eyes of their patients.