04 Aug WHY WE BECOME THERAPISTS
It is our early life experiences that mostly influence the decisions we make as adults including what work we become interested in and motivated to become involved in.
Dr. Gabor Maté is a Hungarian-born Canadian physician who specializes in the study and treatment of addiction. Gabor says that there is no therapist who cannot identify with the client. With this statement he is suggesting that whether we are working with a client with an addiction or trauma or some form of psychopathology that on some level we can identify with it from a personal perspective from our own experience or from our experience with a family member. Even if it is not a direct identification of the actual symptomology it may be identification with the underline feelings of loneliness, isolation, oppression, rejection etc., to some degree many of us come from dysfunctional family systems with insecure attachments. Many of us may have experienced some form of actual abandonment or proximal abandonment as children. In a way our parents can never meet all our needs at all times.
Some of us come from addicted parents where we become the co addict and enmeshed in the emotionally unavailable relationship, later in life we have a great understanding of addiction and empathize with others struggling with addiction as a way to identify with our parents struggle, working with addicts may become a way that we can be close to our parents or a way to offer support to clients who mirror the child in ourselves who never had support. Some of us may have been caretakers to our parents and carried this burden into our adult lives becoming helping professionals. Time and time again we hear example after example of how an early childhood experience or experiences are directly responsible for the career path we choose in life. There is no other profession in which this idea is more significant than that of the helping profession. If we on perhaps very often an unconscious level choose this profession we are in as a vehicle of healing our own trauma and yet it is a profession responsible for holding a space for a vulnerable client to heal their childhood traumas then how do we strike the balance of this complex interchange and how can we make this a positive conscious and unconscious outcome?
As described in the paragraph about reenactments, we create an environment as adults including our work lives and interpersonal activity which will allow for all our unresolved trauma to become manifest and these environments are finely attuned to this manifestation of unresolved trauma and give perfect opportunity for this manifestation to take place in order to encourage the healing process. Being a therapist is a powerful platform for this reenactment to take place. However as therapists we can become very skilled in avoiding our own process work and the surfacing unresolved wounds of childhood in the pursuit of helping another, it can become a subtle form of control, when we are in control as a helping professional then we very often can avoid being venerable. If we accept these unconscious phenomena then what we are acknowledging is that much of our unresolved trauma is surfacing before, during and after sessions with our clients and as a direct result of the working material with the client and very possibility the representing challenges of the client and the transferential load of the interchange with the client. This can create a potentially dangerous and again re-traumatizing relationship. Again emphasizing the importance of doing our own process work as professionals in order to limit the amount of personal attachments to the transferential material and countertransference reactions. Without healing our own unresolved trauma it is impossible to help a client to heal their trauma.
“We see that substance addictions are only one specific form of blind attachment to harmful ways of being, yet we condemn the addict’s stubborn refusal to give up something deleterious to his life or to the life of others. Why do we despise, ostracize and punish the drug addict, when as a social collective, we share the same blindness and engage in the same rationalizations?”
― Gabor Maté