Therapy for Therapists

Helping Other Professionals In Need Of Help

You entered this field because you have a passion for helping others. While caring for others has its benefits, as you may well know, it also has its risks. While it is healthy to acknowledge that the client is ultimately responsible for their own lives, it’s easy to also feel responsible for them. Sometimes caring for your clients in this way can be a matter of life or death.

At the same time, you have your own life. And, you want to make a good living doing what you love. The unfortunate reality for mental health professionals is that compared to other professionals with similar education, as a whole, we make considerably less income.

Jack Tawil, psychologist Annapolis, MD
Jack N. Tawil, Annapolis Psychotherapist

Professional Demands

At the time of writing this, I can tell you that according to Indeed.com the average salary for a psychotherapist in the US is $63,000/yr while the average salary for an engineer is $100,200. Keep in mind that most engineers have a bachelor’s degree compared to the necessary postgraduate degrees for therapists.

Nevertheless, the demands of our work have not changed. As professionals, it’s required that we keep up, be it with updated research, training, CEs, and more. The demands of this profession do not end with graduation.

Financially, many therapists also feel a deep pressure to see more clients in order to make ends meet. You may even see more clients than are good for you. The hope is to do this without compromising the attention given to each client, but that isn’t always possible.

The competing demands, dissonance, and burnout that can develop as a result is no joke.

“Self-care” may have become a buzzword, but the lack of it is very real. Personal psychotherapy is an important component of self-care and is very important in other critical ways. In addition, simply becoming more self-aware and emotionally resilient can increase a sense of empowerment and confidence, which can do wonders for one’s practice and life on many levels.

Why Do Therapists Need Their Own Therapists?

Having your own personal therapy has many benefits.

  • It provides the kind of warm and non-judgment support from someone who understands your work and its demands better than most people can.
  • It can help prevent burnout by helping you manage your expectations, become more emotionally resilient, better understand your own counter-transference reactions, and get to the root of your emotional difficulties.
  • Finally, it can help you undoubtedly become much better at what you do.

It is a common understanding in our field that in order to help another, you must know yourself.

What Is Burnout?

Burnout is physical and emotional exhaustion that ensues from too much stress. It typically refers to job burnout and all professionals, regardless of their type of work, can experience burnout.

Due to the obvious pressures and demands of therapeutic work, clinicians are often more susceptible to burnout than other professionals.

If you believe you are experiencing burnout, you are certainly not alone. Since the pandemic, the report of burnout among mental health professionals has increased dramatically. In a study conducted in 2022, nearly half of the psychologists surveyed reported not being able to keep up with their workload and were experiencing burnout. The number was 30% in 2020 1.

Common Signs Of Therapist Burnout Include:

  • Feeling less compassion for your clients (compassion fatigue)
  • Anger and irritability
  • Loss of confidence
  • Easily triggered by your clients

Burnout unchecked can lead to a desire to quit and leave the field, vulnerability to vicarious trauma, depression, and anxiety. I know because I have been there! Fortunately, I was able to get the help I needed. The experience, and my response to it, have made me a more thoughtful and resilient therapist, and a happier human being.

Therapy For Therapists: Frequently Asked Questions

At the end of therapy together, as a therapist you will not only have greater access to your compassion, skills and training for how to support your clients, but you will also feel freer from your own reactions to your clients.

Does that mean you’ll never be triggered by a client again? Absolutely not. But it does mean you will have a greater awareness and level of curiosity about what’s going on so you have more of your skills and resources available to your clients in session.

For some clinicians, there are natural starting points: an experience (or set of experiences) activates something inside of you that feels untethered or unsettled and you want support. You feel blocked or unable to be your real self in therapy sessions with clients and you want to rectify that. You have a life event that affects your emotional capacity with clients and you want to reset your skills. Or, you may simply feel burned out, tired, or any of the other feelings listed above and you want some relief.

Whatever your reason for seeing therapy as a therapist, I can help you.

Countertransference refers to the feelings and impulses that arise inside of you as the therapist during the course of treatment.

While it was originally conceived in psychoanalytic theory as those reactions by the therapist that hinder treatment, over the years it has been broadened to include other reactions that can sometimes benefit treatment.

For example, the empathic capacity of a therapist to experience (and tolerate) an emotion present in the client before the client is conscious of it themselves, can improve the therapeutic alliance.

Countertransference is very real!

A therapist’s awareness, understanding, and efforts to work through these reactions is critical to achieving consistent, positive outcomes with clients.

Additionally, all therapists, regardless of the model of therapy, should be open to their own countertransference experience. It should not be only considered the domain of psychodynamically-oriented therapists.

In fact, the research shows that the positive outcomes documented for any model of therapy (including CBT) are less due to particular techniques and have more to do with “common factors” shared by all effective therapists. This includes the capacity to tolerate and work through countertransference, which contributes to these outcomes 2.

You were human before you were a therapist, and getting triggered by a client will happen. When it happens often, there is usually more going on and burnout and/or unresolved issues within yourself (countertransference) are often the reason why.

When you see this in yourself that is the signal that it’s time to ask for help.

Getting triggered can span from a “less than” empathetic response to a client to a passive-aggressive comment or gesture. It can also include, putting a client down (intentional or not) or using a tone that is shaming, critical, or authoritarian.

In some cases, you may terminate treatment prematurely due to negative reactions you are having with a client.

ISTDP is unlike other modalities of therapy because we use videotaping to capture what’s actually going on in the room. I have had many years of intensive video-taped training which means, I am adept at not only looking at how you’re presenting in the room, I watch my own reactions as well.

This deeper attachment to the actual data of what happens in sessions is invaluable. It allows me to both meet you where you are AND connect with you in a way you very likely did not know was possible.

With this greater understanding of what is said, felt, and experienced in the therapy room, I am able to more accurately challenge you in appropriate ways to help you see what you don’t yet see. This experience in therapy will help you better understand your mind-body connection and feel through your blocked emotions.

In therapy, I will support you in accessing difficult and often hard-to-reach emotions, we will do this in a way that makes use of your natural gifts and makes intuitive sense to you.

Many clients who come to see me after experiencing other therapies say that working with me is different. I have had enough personal therapy and helped enough people to know, at the core of it, that we do not go to therapy for personal growth, to learn about ourselves, or to “talk things through.”

We go because we are suffering emotionally and we want it to stop.

I also find that therapists as a community are often more challenging than the normal population to treat. Therapists understand psychological concepts better than anyone. And it’s natural to use it to your advantage. Given your nature, it’s also quite normal to try to understand your problems which leads to suffering through the lens of these concepts and theories.

That said, at a gut level you may know this to be true: no matter how much you try to do therapy on yourself, it doesn’t do the trick. Understanding and knowing yourself is not enough for change.

That is like putting the fox in charge of the hen house. Intellectualization can be the problem itself, and many people use their intellect and logic as a way of avoiding their emotions.

Get In Touch With Me

If you’re ready for this kind of support, I would welcome the opportunity to work with you. My services are cash-based and I am accepting clients now.

My office is in Annapolis, MD and you can reach me for a consultation by calling (410) 562-9647 or sending me an email at mail@annapolispsychotherapy.com