"I Need Me to Treat Me"
I've heard this comment from pretty much every therapist I know at some point, and I've uttered it myself from time to time - mostly from a place of frustration that very key physical post-collision issues were repeatedly being missed or that treatment was either too heavy handed or ineffectual.
The benefits of "I need me to treat me" is obvious at first glance, but it also raises a dilemma as a therapist, and perhaps for not so obvious reasons.
"Treat others as you wish to be treated" is The Golden Rule based on treating people with the same dignity and respect that you wish or expect for yourself. The basis of this primary principle is found in all cultures and religions, but this quote is from Matthew 7:12 :
"In everything, do unto others what you would have them do unto you”
It makes perfect sense! On the one hand, you know your self and your body intimately, and since you are the one who should always be "in charge" of your treatment and process no matter what, why wouldn't your hands and skills treat you the best, right? People often evolve as therapists, and as humans, when they themselves have experienced and dealt with a particular issue or challenge.
On the other hand, we all have blind spots about ourselves that arise both from necessity as well as from many sources and forms of protection. We seek out the skill of other therapists to help us move past the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual blindspots (a much better word than "blocks" if you ask me!) and challenges that we face through out life.
Which is why it is so interesting that many therapists often believe that they'd be their own best therapists - because they'd be treated the way they want to be treated as opposed to how someone else sees them needing to be treated! Oh, the conundrum of it all!
Perhaps the most dangerous part, and also most overlooked message that comes with this belief/statement is far more tacit, while also having great potential to overflow into our practices:
Where does a therapist draw that line between appreciation of how their well honed skills might help themselves and the application of that same manner of treatment that they want to receive from others?
This is where the trouble often comes in. As therapists and providers we are meant to be neutral and meet the client where they are at and treat what we find, not treat them as we would literally treat ourselves. The latter is the antithesis of what a "good provider" is trained to do and is "supposed" to do.
In this case, The Golden Rule simply does not translate as we must treat people how they present within the guidelines of our skills, experience, professional codes of conduct, and respect, not how we want or prefer to be treated (in a therapeutic context of course).
For example, if you love a deep, firm massage, great! But when you have a client that needs or even just wants a softer touch, what you personally like, and want, prefer to do as a therapist, or even believe them to need, is irrelevant - unless what they want is harmful. That is self evident. Otherwise, this is their time and their money. Period.
Again, it is not respectful and introduces the very opposite into the therapeutic relationship because it lacks the respect, recognition, acceptance and self-awareness each client deserves. NO therapist should EVER tell a client via actions or words that they "know better". In psychology, this could be seen as Projection, which is ultimately a form of control, and which Freud famously determined as,
"A defense mechanism in which the human ego defends itself against unconscious impulses or qualities"
Carl Jung, a student of Freud, also saw this as a reflection of something we are denying in our non-conscious mind, or Shadow. I discuss more on this topic in this previous post: https://www.satori-cst.com/single-post/2017/08/16/what-we-resist-persists
Another way to see this is as a desire and attempt to heal something in ourselves while also connecting with and attempting to help others heal. In addition to familial, cultural, and personal history, therapists are generally seen as "experts", and there may be great internal and external pressure to always be "positive" and "right" (one of our greatest fears as a therapist is to make a mistake), which Jung saw as the basis of Projection.
This may all arise from a genuine desire to help others, but is also rooted in our need to either avoid and/or discover and heal ourselves - which is why ALL therapists and providers NEED to have their own therapeutic support to evolve and grow, no matter how skilled, experienced, knowledgable, or talented they are.
How we touch others is a form of Sacred Contract, not just a professional or fiscal transaction. As therapists, we are given the gift of trust from our clients, who often comes to us at their most vulnerable, that we will support them and care for them within not only the scope of our professional skills, but also our Humanity.
In this regard, we must treat others as we wish to be treated ourselves: With respect, acceptance, and recognition, not projected needs or unconscious actions based on controlling certain dynamics that keep us from looking at something we'd rather avoid seeing.
Mutual respect, consideration and compassion are truly the best gifts we can give ourselves, our clients, and our world. So let's be and give the best we can be to our clients, friends, and our selves.
So, yes, be the type of therapist and human that you wish others would be to you, for all the above reasons and one more: It's the gift that keeps on giving.
Yours in health,