The Psychotherapist's Own Psychotherapy: Patient and Clinician Perspectives

By Jesse D. Geller; John C. Norcross et al. | Go to book overview

EPILOGUE

The Patient Psychotherapist, the
Psychotherapist's Psychotherapist,
and the Therapist as a Person

DAVID E. ORLINSKY, JESSE D. GELLER,
& JOHN C. NORCROSS

Imagine us, in these final pages, discussing the chapters of our book with an intelligent but professionally untrained Impartial Person—perhaps a descendant of the very one with whom Freud (1926/1959) conversed in his book on “lay analysis.” We can imagine such an individual asking, with some sense of puzzlement:

Why should psychotherapists themselves, as a routine matter, need
or want to undergo psychotherapy, many of them more than once
if the researchers are to be believed? After all, physicians don't
generally submit to medical treatments unless compelled to do so
by a specific illness, nor do dentists have their teeth drilled or
extracted in order to have had the experience. Are psychotherapists
so disturbed that they really need to have personal therapy? And, if
they are, doesn't it imply that they're unfit to be treating others in
need of psychological help?

We readily concede that this question by our Impartial Person makes a valid if limited point. A minority of psychotherapists do at times succumb to the same types of emotional and psychological disorders that their patients present for treatment, through some combination of their own vulnerabilities and the stresses of their personal or professional lives. When that occurs to therapists, their personal disorders may not only require treatment but may also significantly impair their ability to provide effective and ethical treatment to patients. The impaired psychotherapist is of great concern to the profession for two reasons: ethically, to protect patients and the

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