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Therapeutic Reciprocity: Therapy Is Also for the Therapist

Doing therapy is also therapeutic for the therapist, which can benefit the community.

The field of therapy and counseling is often only focused on helping clients navigate their own relational, somatic (physically based), emotional, and psychological challenges. However, this overlooks that the therapeutic process, at its most fundamental level, is not a one-way street. As a therapist myself, I can attest that therapists also derive deep personal therapeutic benefits from their profession. It is not only a profession but in most cases also a therapeutic journey for the therapist. And why write about this?! When the therapist does good work and thus finds it therapeutic, they'll better serve the community. Here are 5 key reasons how.

Empathy and Perspective-Taking

One of the most fundamental skills therapists develop (the good ones usually master it over time) is empathy—the ability to deeply understand and share the feelings of another person. As therapists engage with clients from diverse backgrounds and experiences, they continually practice putting themselves in the shoes of the client. This skill becomes a personal asset as therapists also learn to view their own lives and those in their personal lives with more empathy. This empathetic exchange can foster personal growth, self-awareness, and a broader perspective on life's challenges. As a personal example, there are many times in my life where, after having helped a client, couple, or family with a particular situation, I have become more prepared to handle a similar issue myself or support a loved one or friend with it.

Dr. Jason Linder
Source: Dr. Jason Linder

Enhanced Communication and Interpersonal Skills

Therapists refine their communication and interpersonal skills by navigating complex emotional discussions and situations with clients. The proficiency developed from thousands of hours of active listening, nonverbal cue interpretation, and effective dialogue can naturally carry over to the therapist's personal relationships. Improved communication fosters deeper connections, reduces misunderstandings, and enhances emotional intimacy with friends, family, colleagues, and partners.

Self-Reflection and Personal Growth

Therapists encourage their clients to self-reflect and work on personal growth. Similarly, therapists also self-reflect as a crucial component of their professional development. Through ongoing training, supervision, self-analysis, peer consultation, and further education, therapists (especially the good ones) continually evaluate their techniques, skills, and approaches. This self-improvement journey not only sharpens their professional skills but also promotes their personal development.

Validation and Fulfillment

Helping clients achieve breakthroughs and witness their progress provides therapists with a profound sense of fulfillment. When I am in touch with this, I start to believe that if I didn't need money to pay bills, I could see a world where I would choose to work for free, at least for a few hours, regularly. This emotional reward validates the therapist's purpose and reinforces their own well-being. The positive impact we have on others can boost our self-esteem and generate a sense of profound meaning in our work, leading to increased life satisfaction. This, in turn, can also improve the quality of their therapy they provide.

Resilience and Coping Strategies

Therapists often deal with clients facing adversity, trauma (what I specialize in), and stress. In assisting clients to develop coping strategies, therapists inadvertently can acquire a repertoire of effective coping mechanisms themselves. These tools can prove invaluable in managing their own challenges, traumas, and stressors, thus contributing to their emotional resilience and overall mental health.

Here’s a personal example: I periodically struggle with anxiety. Recently I had a powerful session with a client working on his health anxiety. We did the EMDR flash-forward technique and toward the end he realized that even the worst outcomes: getting injured, paralyzed, or even dying wouldn’t be not only manageable, but overall "not too bad" in his words. We then realized he suffers more from "imagined anxiety" than "real anxiety" and worked on creative ways he can “transform” those anxieties, such as through talking to friends or family and working toward more of a team approach to help him enjoy and savor his life. The work with him directly applied to me in myriad ways. Therapy with this client profoundly helped me heal too from my own periodic anxiety. Of course this leaves me feeling grateful and inspired to do the work I do.

Destigmatizing Mental Health

As advocates for mental health awareness, therapists actively participate in destigmatizing conversations around mental health. By sharing their professional identity and experiences, therapists contribute to reducing societal stigma and creating an environment of open conversation around mental health. In turn, this environment benefits therapists as they find greater acceptance and support when discussing their own mental and emotional well-being, and can also inspire others to do the same.

Boundaries and Self-Care

Therapists often emphasize the importance of setting healthy boundaries when needed and practicing self-care with their clients. These principles become personal mantras, guiding therapists to establish boundaries in their own lives and prioritize their well-being. When I reflect personally on my work, I realize that, although I'm speaking to clients, I am also talking to myself; I have often experienced similar challenges to the ones they bring to me. For example, the constant reminder to maintain a work-life balance encourages therapists to lead healthier, more fulfilling lives, which can thus improve the quality of their work.


Doing therapy for me and seeing my clients heal and grow help me heal a part of me that has struggled in the same way my clients have. After all, we're all human, and being human is hard for everyone in some ways. This therapeutic reciprocity—the mutual benefit of emotional growth and self-improvement—exemplifies the unique nature of the profession I'm immensely grateful to have chosen. Beyond our role as healers, therapists gain empathy, communication skills, personal growth, validation, resilience, and coping strategies, and contribute to micro and macro societal change by destigmatizing conversations around mental health.

As therapists provide therapeutic support to their clients, they simultaneously can find therapeutic solace in their own journeys, creating a harmonious cycle of healing and growth. I am infinitely fortunate to be a part of this, and clients should also benefit: the more therapeutic a therapist's work is for them personally, the better service they'll provide. In turn, this will make clients heal quicker, and thus more therapeutic for the therapist, creating a positive flywheel of healing for the world.

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