THE QUESTION OF
Introduction and Prospectus
JESSE D. GELLER, JOHN C. NORCROSS,
& DAVID E. ORLINSKY
Personal treatment for psychotherapists—receiving it, recommending and conducting it—is at the very core of the profession of psychotherapy. Personal therapy or analysis is, in many respects, at the center of the mental health universe. Our training, our identity, our health, and our self-renewal revolve around the epicenter of personal therapy experience. In their early classic Public and Private Lives of Psychotherapists, Henry, Sims, and Spray (1973, p. 14) concluded: “In sum, the accumulated evidence strongly suggests that individual psychotherapy not only serves as the focal point for professional training programs, but also functions as the symbolic core of professional identity in the mental health field.”
The vast majority of mental health professionals, independent of professional discipline, have undergone personal treatment, typically on several occasions (see chapters 13 and 14). The overwhelming bulk of evidence, with the exception of its inconclusive effects on subsequent patient outcomes, supports the effectiveness of personal treatment. Fully 85% of therapists who have undergone therapy report having had at least one experience of great or very great benefit to themselves personally, and 78% relate that therapy has been a strong positive influence on their own professional development (chapter 17).
At the same time, upward of three-quarters of psychotherapists have themselves treated a psychotherapist colleague or psychotherapist-intraining (see chapter 25). Moreover, a substantial number of clinicians occupy the special status known as “therapist's therapist” (Norcross, Geller, & Kurzawa, 2000), a position that provides unique gratifications