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Dissertation

Healing the Healer: Professional, Personal, and Clinical Issues

14 December 2001

Abstract

In 1980 the American Psychological Association (APA) developed a task force to address the issue of impaired and/ or distressed psychotherapists. The efforts of the task force Steering Committee and of individual state and provincial psychological associations have gained wider attention for the issue of impairment and the need for programs supporting impaired psychotherapists. There has been a surge of research consisting of survey data about the prevalence of distress and impairment and examination of specific issues including drug and alcohol abuse, sexual boundary violations, and confronting the impaired colleague. However, there is a dearth of research regarding the process of treating the impaired or distressed colleague and the assessment of the role .of the psychotherapist-provider. This study addresses the impact of conducting therapy with the psychotherapist-client on the psychotherapist-provider. A survey was distributed to psychotherapists who have conducted therapy with psychotherapist-clients in Illinois and Oregon. Respondents reported ethical issues, emotional reactions, and clinical differences in their treatment of the psychotherapist-client. Gender differences and differences based on years of practice also emerged. Results are indicative of subtle but existing differences in the treatment of the mental health professional. Data were also collected about the personal therapy experiences of respondents. Results indicated a shift in reason for pursuing therapy. Sixty-two percent of respondents noted personal/ professional problems as the reason for seeking a first therapy experience whereas, training, growth, and personal/ professional problems were cited most frequently as reasons for pursuing most recent therapy.


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