Though the idea of suffering helping professionals goes back to Greek mythology, the term “Wounded Healer” was first coined by Carl Jung. In fact, he argued that only wounded healers could be effective. There is little research on this phenomenon, but many clinicians, regardless of their training, many not want to tell you about there own scars, but they might be willing to share that they went to school with many “wounded healers.” In my previous post I talked about some of the challenges associated with this. This post describes what it takes to move toward the goal of serving others.
Even people who have worked through traumatic events sometimes find that they need to process it in a new way. It’s not unusual for a clinician, particularly a new one or a student to find themselves saying, “Huh, I thought I’d worked through that already.” It’s one thing to get over something, but it’s another to manage it while walking through it with someone else.
One analogy is to think of a break-up. It’s one thing to get over that person, to not think of them so much, to move on to another partner. It’s quite another to do so while spending time with your ex on a regular basis, perhaps still engaging in romantic interaction or seeing them with a new partner. That’s kind of what doing trauma therapy is like for survivors of like events, except instead of a relationship it was a traumatic event. It’s a new level of “getting over it.”
Research validates this conclusion. Trauma therapists with a personal history of trauma report more negative impact from providing trauma therapy than those with no personal history.
Preventing negative effects
But because all therapists are at risk for burnout, especially when working with particular populations—those with a history of abuse, trauma or personality disorders—and especially when they have their own history, it is extra important that they are spending time, money and energy on taking care of themselves.
Some things that are helpful:
- Have your own therapist
- Have a good clinical supervisor—if your actual supervisor isn’t it, then find another one
- Get peer support from coworkers, former classmates, or other professionals in the field
- Do self care in all five dimensions:
- Also, I think that it is helpful to have someone perform a service for you if you are in the field of serving others. I don’t know why and there isn’t any empirical evidence for it, but I just know that I feel something inside me refilling when I’m getting my hair done or getting a massage or even receiving cookies from a friend.
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