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The New Social Worker is the quarterly magazine for social work students and recent graduates, focusing on social work careers for those new to the profession. This blog is a companion to the free online magazine at http://www.socialworker.com.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Therapy for All?

Somewhere, among all the professors I had in the MSW process, someone told me that they believed all social workers should be in therapy. At the time, I thought the person was joking as the idea of a therapist seeing a therapist seemed silly. Now, I wonder if there's truth in that and, if so, whether we make easier or more difficult clients than non-social workers.

For example, is it better to come in with a guess as to our own GAF score or is that something we can never presume to know because we are too close to the subject? Are we more or less likely to self-diagnose or to attempt to justify or explain away our behaviors?

What do YOU think? Should all social workers be seeing a professional? Should all professionals be warned about taking on social workers as clients?


  1. Its not a bad idea for social workers to see a therapist on a regular basis. We are always on the recieving end of other people's issues and struggle for growth and although it is our chosen walk, we must find a way to release it all back into the world as positive energy. This does not have to be produced through therapy alone for there are many avenues of redirection that we have to choose from. I prefere to run,write, and indulge in child-like play :-). Therapy has also worked for me but many times I go in with the idea that I am self aware, understand what needs to be done and I am waiting for the therapist to 'say the right words'. In this fashion SW's are definitely a tougher crowd! At least I am.... Im working on that ;)

  2. I have often contemplated similar questions. As an outpatient therapist I have discussed there being "a thin line between the chairs" at times. While we all have some kind of baggage, admitting our limitations and self-awareness is key; as does supervision and consultation remain essential.
    Prior to my becoming a therapist, but 5 years or so post MSW, I went to two sessions with a LMFT (out of area and not my first choice, but as a convenience). The main reason I didn't continue: I was too critical of his style and techniques. I struggled with questions of "why did he ask me that?" or "wow, I would never _____ ". I believe it was a matter of discipline snobbery, and maybe some justification for not going back. We didnt mesh or build good rapport. However, it has been a useful tool.
    Find a professional colleague to consult with and utilize the resources available. How can you "practice what you preach" otherwise?

  3.  I think that all social workers and counselors should have the experience of being on the other side of the chair. As well, if a social worker has some unresolved issues that might get in the way of their work, they should definitely get therapy. As for whether ALL social workers should BE seeing a therapist...that's ridiculous. 

    And social workers aren't more difficult clients, per se. I've had a couple and the only real problem is the idea that because they're social workers, they should be able to figure themselves out and feel shame at having to see a therapist. It creates odd dynamics...

  4. I think it depends on the field a social worker pursues. Those who don't necessarily have much personal client contact probably do great without their own therapy. However, I think every practicing counselor/therapist should experience "the couch."  Regardless if any active issues are present or not, it pays to be self-aware so as not to become a barrier between youself and the client. 

    I think I'm on the fence about whether therapists make better or worse clients. We all have <span>at least</span> one symptom that would fit neatly under many diagnoses. So, does the additional knowledge of mental health/illness necessarily give us all we need to be efficient practitioners? Or does the additional knowledge prime our subconscious to conjure up symptoms needed to meet diagnostic criteria as what you identify as justification? Teeter-totter ... I could fight both sides!

  5. I think every social worker and every person that works with people should go to therapy. I do community work and have done interpersonal work in the past and found counseling to be a refreshing and clarifying experience to process different stages of my life. Quite frankly, I think it is irresponsible for a therapist to offer services without examining their own life and processing their process. I don't believe in therapists "self-actualizing" and trascending the chair, but I do believe that we need someone else to face our own issues and grow.