We're not superheroes, we can't read your mind, and we really do care about you! Read on for more answers to questions you may have about therapists.
How do mental health counselors and psychologists listen to people’s problems all the time and not fall apart?
This is a common question, and I’ll have to answer it with an analogy. A sanitation worker may be bothered by slogging through a septic field in rubber boots when they first start out on the job, but after a while it no longer bothers them.
In graduate school, we learn to handle others’ pain through a process called stress inoculation. While we’re learning about the science of psychology, counseling theories, and therapy skills, we’re also becoming more and more resilient to hearing about painful feelings and experiences. We even engage in roleplayed therapy sessions before ever seeing a real client.
Of course, we might find ourselves feeling hurt or overwhelmed in certain situations. A client’s death is very painful for a counselor. Another situation is when a client’s experience triggers something painful in the counselor’s life. Let’s say a counselor just returned to work after their mother’s funeral, and the first client they see reports that their own mother just passed away. The counselor is likely to feel upset, not only because they care about the client, but because it brought up the recent sting of their own recent loss.
How do we handle situations like these? We seek support from each other.
Do therapists talk to each other about clients?
We very rarely discuss any specific client’s private business with each other. The psychotherapy setting is sacred to us, and your privacy is paramount. The most common reason your name might come up is when there is a problem with your insurance or something else administrative-related. Here are some rare instances in which we might discuss something therapy-related about a client:
-Your therapist might consult with another licensed mental health professional to improve your care. We don’t share names during these consultations. Your therapist might ask another clinician, “I have a young adult female client with social anxiety. Do you have any worksheets that might be helpful?” or “I have a depressed middle-aged male client who seems stuck in his therapy. Do you have any ideas?”
-Your clinician is likely to seek professional consultation before submitting a mandatory abuse report to Child Protective Services or Adult Protective Services. Even though we are bound by law to report abuse of children, the elderly, and disabled adults, reporting is something we take seriously. We consult to ensure that we are reporting when we need to report and not reporting when it is not needed.
-Your counselor may seek consultation if they believe you are at imminent risk of seriously harming yourself or someone else. We do everything we can to prevent involuntary psychiatric hospitalization. Even though hospitalization can save your life, it is stressful, disruptive, can be humiliating, and can destroy the therapeutic relationship. We want to be sure we’re doing the right thing if we’re faced with that serious decision.
Are therapists ever shocked or put off by what clients tell them?
In general, no. We know that people are complex, and they have very different experiences. We understand that everyone has inner thoughts and feelings that they don’t tell very many people for fear of judgment, and that is exactly why we’re here. Chances are, we’ve heard it before.
My therapist said something that offended me. Should I tell them?
You should tell your therapist. Any competent mental health professional will welcome your feedback, work diligently to understand your concerns, apologize, and change their approach.
If you need a way to bring it up, try this: “When you said ___, I felt ___.”
If it's one of our clinicians, and you don’t feel comfortable talking to your counselor about it, please contact our office and ask for the owner.
Where do therapists go to get help?
When we’re going through something painful in our own lives, we do what most people do:
-lean on family and friends
-get professional help
When one of us needs professional counseling, we go outside of Etheridge Psychology to avoid a conflict of interest (or dual-role conflict). That said, we often turn to each other for peer support. The mental health professionals and staff at Etheridge Psychology are kind, approachable people. We rally together when one of us has a death in the family or is going through something else that’s hard. Not only do we support each other, but we do what we can to make sure a clinician’s caseload is taken care of during emergencies.
What I love about this profession is that all of my coworkers are warm and empathic by design. We maintain healthy boundaries with each other, but we’ve got each other’s backs as well.
If you are looking for a counselor or psychologist in Cary, give us a call at (919) 600-4906 or email us. We serve children, teens, and adults. We are LGBTQ+ friendly, neurodiversity affirming, and a transgender safe space. Some insurance accepted, and online counseling is available.
Author: Mary Anne Etheridge, Ph.D.