Some professionals live and work within a culture of therapy.
Their lifestyle is immersed in and enriched by providing therapy
to others and participating in therapy themselves. These
therapists are very comfortable openly discussing their own
progress in therapy with their colleagues. The phrase, "my
therapist says.....," is common and non-stigmatized. The
question of whether therapists should be in therapy would likely
meet with an enthusiastic yes.
Although the culture
of therapy can probably be overdone, it is nevertheless the most
ideal of therapeutic situations. When people are motivated to
resolve emotional issues and are willing to invest a significant
amount of time and money into this endeavor, it is comparable to
the devotion of artists and the religious. It is a personal
journey, a quest for wholeness, a pursuit of happiness.
There is another
workplace culture of a very different type: the culture of high
conformity. Some workplaces are very homogeneous in composition.
If you happen to fit into the recipe, you can probably do your
work unencumbered and find some pleasant moments of socialization.
You might not even be aware of the sameness among staff. However,
if you do not fit, you will probably be confronted with some
A workplace of
negative high conformity might find one or more of the following
qualities and characteristics very threatening to office
Telling the truth.
Having a different opinion.
The list could go
on, but you probably get the idea. In these negative situations,
some workplaces are not unlike dysfunctional families. It is the
tragic result of personal deficiencies being acted out in the
workplace. Unfortunately, non-conforming therapists can be
targeted for dismissal. This can happen quickly or it can be a
long and complicated process depending on the psychological
make-up of the therapist, their level of dedication to the job,
and the available alternatives.
How does this tie in
with the focus of this essay? Non-conforming therapists might be
viewed as troublemakers and mandated to therapy. The mandate
might follow an incident of any of the above listed
characteristics. Such a mandate is a disciplinary action. It
also seems to give an underlying message to conform or pay the
price for authenticity. From the supervisor's point of view,
however, the mandate will be justified under something similar to
Section 2.09 of the N.A.S.W. Code of Ethics.
under these conditions have some serious choices to make. First
of all, it is lamentable that things reached such an extreme
state. An aware therapist might have quit such a job long before
the situation deteriorated so badly. There must have been
signposts of predestination along the way. Notwithstanding,
dedication to patients and love of the work itself can sometimes
obscure the downward spiral of office dynamics and personal status.
On the brighter
side, therapists who choose to keep their job and comply with the
therapy mandate may discover a twist of fate. Honest participation
in therapy could prove to be an empowering experience for them.
Such therapists may actually get the help they need to navigate
office dynamics and thereby continue providing services to their
clientele. The mandate, which was intended to be disciplinary,
can result in real help. It is the attitude of the mandated
therapist and the quality of the therapist's therapist that can
promote a good therapeutic alliance.
Allow me to close
this essay with an except from Shakespeare with which everyone is
To be, or not to be,--that is the question:--
'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
to take arms against a sea of troubles,
by opposing end them?
Beneath the question
of whether therapists should be in therapy is a deeper meaning
that can be transposed from Shakespeare. It is a question of
existence and essence, taking responsibility for self, living
meaningfully and expressively, and finding ways to cope with
whatever outrageous fortune we encounter at home and at work.
(Written 04/19/04: bibliography available.)
Until we meet