BlogsMary Aguilar, MSW, LCSW
Never trust a therapist who has not engaged in therapy themselves.
My own journey in therapy has taught me valuable lessons and insights personally and professionally. Years ago, I saw my first therapist when I was looking for some resolve to past trauma. The therapist I saw was helpful in some ways and had limitations in others. Seeing a therapist for the first time helped demystify the experience and destigmatize the process. I regularly reference and discuss my own therapy experiences with fellow therapists and non-therapists alike to ensure we, as a society and as mental health professionals, normalize this process of caring for ourselves. This therapist helped me simply put a name to my issue. I was struggling through relationships and life with one overarching theme. Once I could put a name to it and understand the issue, I was able to get informed, develop insight, and move towards recovery. I mentioned there were limitations as well. The therapist I saw used a solution focused approach, meaning they explored present issues and functioning only. This approach can be helpful with the right person with the fitting needs. For me, it did not quite meet the depth of my needs. While the therapist normalized my reaction to past trauma, they would not explore it with me.
Years later in another round of therapy, I found myself wanting to dig deep to resolve past trauma. I also wanted to be the best therapist I could be for others. This meant that I needed to explore all issues that could affect my own reactions and effectiveness with my own clients. This time, equipped with my own practice of EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy, I sought an EMDR therapist. Here, I found the type of “digging deep” that I needed and wanted. This therapist quickly targeted core life and early childhood experiences that related to my behavior, self-talk, and daily emotions. This time I was working on the right issues. Though admittedly, I sometimes didn’t want to go to session to do the hard work. Truly engaging in deep therapeutic work requires an openness and vulnerability that is sometimes emotionally and physically taxing. Other times, it is energizing and exciting. Overall, the experience was invaluable despite the hard work. I flexed my vulnerability muscle while working hard to heal past hurts and realize my full potential that we all have as human beings for love, connection and worth.
What does this mean for those of you who are engaged in therapy or are considering seeing a therapist? Therapy is just therapy. It does not mean we are “broken” or “less than.” Healing our minds and bodies so that we may live our best life just makes sense. Opening ourselves up for new insights and healing takes courage, and we are worth it.
You are also in charge of your own therapeutic process. Research your therapist and ask questions about their expertise and approach to ensure it will meet your needs. All therapists and clients are not a perfect fit. Sometimes our therapists do not have the knowledge, training, or approach to best meet our needs. Sometimes our therapist’s own issues prevent them from fully addressing ours. But many times, our therapist is a gift, granting us empathy, acknowledgment, warmth, understanding, and healing. Find a therapist who makes you feel heard and is completely present in your space. Accept nothing less.
Good therapists recognize the need for therapy themselves. We are human too. Being human means we also come with baggage. Therapy helps us ensure that we do not project our own baggage onto our clients. We must work to ensure we can be present and attune to our clients’ needs and experiences. Besides, how hypocritical would it be for me, as a therapist, to not believe in the therapeutic process and engage in it myself?
May peace and healing find you in your own therapy journey.