The training and education involved in becoming a
Psychotherapist is a long and costly journey that requires commitment. There is also the personal and emotional
challenges encountered along the way.
This highlights the willingness that student therapists have to be
altruistic and to care and support their clients in a professional
relationship. There is a distinct lack
of research material available on the subject of whether previous life
experiences (emotional wounds) have influenced individuals to undertake a
career in Psychotherapy. However there
are common themes identified from the existing literature and this review will
discuss those themes which are; the wounded healer, early childhood experience
of loss, the unconscious influences and the desire to help others. The subject of counter transference will also
The Wounded Healer
There are individuals within the profession of Psychotherapy
who at one time themselves experienced therapy as the client. They have been hurt and experienced their own
traumas and pain which in turn led them on the path of becoming therapists
themselves. They became the wounded
healer Psychotherapists. However some
individuals who enter the profession in this way can be detrimental to their
clients and the profession (Farber, 2017).
The role of a Psychotherapist is to facilitate clients in
their disclosure of their personal experiences, yet the Psychotherapeutic
community is silent when it comes to their own emotional wounds. There is a perception that therapists don’t experience
what their clients present with and they are emotionally very stable and secure. This persona can then be adopted by therapists
and student therapists alike due to a fear of being stigmatised (Adams, 2014).
A study conducted by Gertrud Mander in 2004 which involved
interviewing candidates who wished to train as Psychotherapists, found that
there was an internal inner voice or a “call from the super-ego” that was a motivating
factor for the candidates. This supports
the idea that there is a connection between therapists and the wounded healer
concept (Mander, 2004).
Early childhood experience of loss
Carl Jung and Melanie klein who are both arguably the more well-known
therapists to date both experienced different variations of early childhood
loss, with Jung choosing isolation and loneliness as a child and Klein who lost
her Father by the time she was 18. Both
these personal examples were cited in a study conducted in 2007 which compromised
of 9 participants. All 9 experienced some form of early childhood
experience of loss and contributed that as a motivating factor in training as Psychotherapists. Again the connection can be made here of the individual
training as a therapist to fulfil a personal need or to heal oneself (Barnett,
Training as a Psychotherapist involves opening up the student’s
inner world to distress, trauma and difficult experiences of others. Student therapists deliberately enter into this
profession. While we can assume that the
majority of the general population would seek to avoid such a profession
(Norcross and Faber,2005).
What is evident from previous research on this topic is that
what is in the unconscious mind does not always rise to the surface when
individuals are asked why they chose this profession; therefore individuals may
not be fully aware of what truly lead them on this path to becoming a Psychotherapist
unless asked to delve deeper. Marston
(1984) suggests that Psychotherapists and Counsellors are motivated by
unconscious motives. The motives named
in the study are contact, discovery, fortune, growth, fame, healing, vicarious
experience and controversially power (Marston 1984).
The desire to help others
The desire to help others or altruism has been the subject of
research. Whether altruistic motivations
are entirely selfless raises much debate.
If we are to believe that it is empathy that ignites the desire to help
others, the question can be put, is it because one can’t bear to feel the
distress of others empathetically, therefore one feels a strong motivation to
help others in order to alleviate those feelings of empathy while also alleviating
the sufferer? (Staemmler,2012).
The motivation of “helping others” is by far the most
commonly used reason, according to research for therapists choosing the
profession (Bager-Charlson, 2010). Past
studies point to altruistic reasons being the most attractive to student
therapists. Carl Rogers (1962) also
spoke of the rewards gained from helping others. Altruism as a motive is an honourable and
socially acceptable one. This may indicate
why it is most often stated as the reason for individuals choosing a career in Counselling
& Psychotherapy. (Sriram, 2016).