Therapist with a psychological diagnosis

Can a therapist that personally has a psychological diagnosis treat others?

Ben's Answer:

Therapists are human like everyone else. A great many therapists are drawn to the profession because of their own hard won struggles to overcome their own emotional pain, traumas, and inner demons. Anyone who has done that kind of inner work on themselves has earned their credibility as a guide to others.

But it depends on what kind of psychological diagnosis you're talking about. Any problem, if not dealth with or at least managed well, can make a person unable to perform their job. This would be especially true for a therapist. Therapists have a high degree of responsibility for their own emotional well-being, in order to be any good to their clients. Allowing for the normal, unexpected bumps in life (like a therapist's personal loss or illness), anything else, like a serious mental illness that is out of control, would be detrimental to the work a therapist is doing and would possibly jeaopardize their clients.

I've known great therapists with Bipolar Disorder, history of Anxiety, trauma and depression, who do excellent work and serve their clients with empathy, compassion and wisdom. But it requires a high level of self-awareness and responsibility on the therapist's part.

A therapist who is compromised by their own emotional struggles should themselves be in therapy, and have plenty of professional peer support. If they can't keep themsleves in an emotionally healthy and stable place, they should take time off from working with clients until they are able to be fully present and stable for their clients. A therapist needs to be able to maintain a healthy boundary with their clients in order to do effective work.

Thanks for your question.

Take Care,
Ben Schwarcz, MFT
Santa Rosa Psychotherapist

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