Dear Mental Health Counselors, Have You Mastered the Art of…Being You?

“Knowing others is intelligence;

knowing yourself is true wisdom.

Mastering others is strength;

mastering yourself is true power.”

Lao Tzu

Analogy: Imagine that you are an aspiring plumber. You have fixed leaks in your own bathroom faucet by watching YouTube videos. You say to yourself, “This is easy. I can fix other faucets.” So now you want to become a plumber. You post a service ad. A customer answers the ad, so you go to their house to fix the problem. The customer says there is a moist stain on their wall that they think needs repair. You say that you have the answer. So you go to the Home improvement store, you buy stain blocking paint, you go back to the home and cover the stain with paint, and you tell the customer that their wall is good as new. Meanwhile, you go home to cover your own wall stain with stain-blocking paint. In time, the walls collapse. Due to lack of training, you apply the right solution to the wrong problem. The wall did not just need paint, because the problem was much deeper. A leaking pipe needed to be replaced, but you did not have the skills or training to know better.

Relating to mental health professionals (MHP), the human mind is a complex strata of thought and emotion shaped by experience (some of which is trauma). While it is acceptable to offer help in the areas for which you are skilled — liken fixing a leaky faucet to formulating a plan for good habits — it is important that you understand your limitations.

You must realize what you do know and what you do not know. You must understand how to accurately match solutions to problems. You must know when and how you need to refer clients to a specialized MHP. You must know a.) your own biases b.) your own character weaknesses in which you still struggle (because all humans struggle) c.) how to guard against transference and countertransference d.) how to set and maintain healthy boundaries.

Being self-aware is important. However self-mastery of self-awareness is crucial to helping others help themselves in a mental healing process.

Have you searched all the dark corners of your mind? Have you uprooted and repaired all your emotional insecurities. If you are at peace with yourself, if you are confident to share your weaknesses, then you have. (Clue: If you struggle with depression, anxiety, and/or feelings feelings of low self-worth, if you still hide your past failures, then you have not, which means you must be careful when endeavoring as a mental health professional of any title.)

Be clear to list the services of what you can and can not provide in order to set accurate expectations for prospective clients. If you are unsure of what you can provide (and if you are unable to verbalize what it is you provide, then you are unsure), then thoroughly conduct research and study until you are sure and can clearly articulate your services and abilities.

Published by analyticalperspective

Heather Blackwell is a CBT-certified mental health coach and Psychology subject matter expert (SME), dedicated to bringing Psychology insights to the self-help community. She studied two masters degrees in the areas of Forensic Psychology and MFT, and has 15+ years’ experience in behavioral analysis under her skill belt. Her discussion topics include, but are not inclusive to, dating experiences, interpersonal relationships, maladaptive behavioral development, self-identity development, self-help, holistic mind-body health, and nutrition as it applies to mental wellness.

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