To train as a Counselling Psychologist I had to attend a minimum of 40 hours of personal therapy. The British Psychological Society states that this is mandatory for trainee Counselling Psychologists for various reasons, mainly;
-To demonstrate an understanding and experience of therapy from the perspective of the client, which will be utilised to guide their own practice.
-To demonstrate an understanding through therapy of their own life experience, and understand the impact of that experience upon practice.
-To demonstrate an ability for critical self-reflection on the use of self in therapeutic process.
As it happens, I found this experience one of the most useful parts of my training, so much so that I went on to attend additional therapy with a Body Psychotherapist. As a result, I feel better able to use my personal insight and life experiences to build a strong therapeutic relationship with my clients which is based on empathy, acceptance, and authenticity. At the same time, I more fully understand my own shadows and I work reflectively (e.g. in Supervision*) to ensure that they don’t get in the way of the therapeutic relationship (known as Transference and Countertransference, in psychology speak).
I won’t claim that the therapeutic process was easy, there were moments of despair and moments of enlightenment, and pretty much everything in between. Yet, I have absolutely no doubt that it was a worthwhile investment because it gifted me my voice which has driven my advocacy work and enabled me to create meaning from my experiences.
Therapy is a gradual process of self discovery. We all have our stuff, I don’t think there should be anything mythical or shameful or secretive about acknowledging that. Taking positive steps to understand and better ourselves is surely something we should be proud of because it takes courage to turn and face our shadows. Of course, I am not saying that we all need therapy. Self discovery and personal growth come in many forms. But if we are really struggling to make sense of our place in the world, past experiences, our thoughts, feelings or relationships then the therapeutic journey should be a perfectly acceptable option. It is certainly one that I have benefited from and that I feel privileged to share with my clients.
The British Psychological Society, Promoting excellence in psychology Standards for the accreditation of Doctoral programmes in counselling psychology, October 2015
*regular mandatory meetings with another Psychologist to discuss casework and other professional issues in a reflective and structured way.