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Hello Doctor,

My name is Angélique Sigouin, I'm seventeen years old and I've been struggling to find a career choice for a few years now. Psychology came as my main interest and I'm positive I will be interested and motivated to study that subject. As a child I haven't been raised in the most... comfortable way and so I was introduced to a few people to talk to. I'd been given the impression that a Psychologist always has it kept together. It's an image that a lot of people I know have.

I just cannot believe that a normal human, no matter how informed they are about the human mind, constantly has the answers to solving their own problems. Sometimes it's easier to help someone else than to help yourself. At least, that's my opinion. So I've been wondering... if I were to have some tough times as a psychologist, would it be normal for one to have a professional there to help them too? Surely everyone needs help from time to time, is it a good way to cope? It's not always easy to find friends that would willingly hear you vent and ramble for hours just to "let it out" and give you decent advice.

I'd love to here an answer from you.


ask dr-robert

Hello, Angie--

Good question. In the first place, the better programs of training for a practice of psychotherapy usually require a so-called "training analysis," which means that the student, in addition to his or her academic studies, also submits to a course of psychotherapy—perhaps between forty and sixty hours of it, perhaps even more. This psychotherapy experience has two goals. The first is for the student to learn about his or her blind spots, emotional limitations, unmet needs, shadow material, etc. In my experience, many therapists (often the best ones) are people whose upbringing was not particularly comfortable, so the hours of analysis often deal with difficult material which really needs to be thoroughly digested before the would-be therapist tries to work with others. The second goal is for the student to understand the process of psychotherapy--how therapy works--from the inside out. Unfortunately some psychotherapy programs do not require this training analysis, but in my view all should, and the good ones do.

Secondly, when the student graduates and begins to work with clients, the first year or two of that work is done under the supervision of an experienced therapist who, through regular meetings in which the beginning therapist and the supervisor discuss the beginner's cases and how they are being handled, will help the student further to understand his or her unacknowledged attitudes, emotional limitations, and anything else which might interfere with doing the work in the best way.

Finally, many therapists have therapists of their own with whom they can share their problems and concerns. Sometimes this takes the form of "being in therapy" just like any therapy client with regular meetings. Or else, the therapist's therapist will simply be there ready to listen and help in case any problems, either personal or professional, arise. Providing therapy is difficult, demanding work, and it helps to have someone who can provide support and understanding when needed.

So you see, a therapist who has been properly trained has already gone a long way in self-understanding, and should be able to rely upon expert help if more work in that direction is needed.

By the way, this might be a good time for you to begin psychotherapy. Your observation about how friends often cannot listen when you need to be heard tells me that speaking with a trained professional might be just what you need.

Good luck in your studies, and be well.

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