Posted by: Belinda | 2004/10/24

A case of the blind leading the blind?

Would you please give me your honest honest opinion on the following matter:
I would love to study psychology and become a counsellor/researcher or something. I want to be actively involved in making a real difference in at least one person's life some day. (Ultimately I want to help other ppl suffering from eating disorders)
However, I've brought this up the other day with the shrink I sometimes go to, and he basically said that to become a mental health professional, you have to have had NO problems whatsoever with your own mental health.
So then I made it even more clear to him that I'm only thinking of this in terms of "one day when I'm totally well", but he was still so negative about it, and said no, one never becomes "well" from a mental illness, (or an eating disorder) once you have it, you're stuck with it.
Now I don't know what to think/do!!
Some help/input (honest) would greatly be appreciated, please.


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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCyberShrink

Hello again, Belinda ---lucky I popped back in to the site.
Well, everyone's entitled to their opinions. I wouldn't quite agree with your shrink , but it depends on what exactly he meant. It is probably right to say that to become a mental health professional you should have no Major Active problems with your own mental health, for various good reasons. A heart surgeon who keeps having heart attacks isn't actually very helpful to others, even if he's very genuinely interested in his field of activity ! But there's no reason, except maybe for some very destructive disorders ( like a psychopath !) that having had a psych disorder --- and recovered from it --- one couldn't become a perfectly adequate and helpful mh prof. Indeed, Freudians might argue that EVERYONE alive has some form of mental health problem, and formal Analysts actually require that everyone training to become a psychoanalyst must tghemselves undergo an analysis / treatment themselves as part of their qualification.
There can be a problem, at times, that someone who has a particular kind of problem ( like eating disorder, to use it as an example ) from which they have not altogether recovered, could misuse the therapeutic qualification to ride their own hobbyhorse, to follow their very personal agenda, using their patients rather than serving them. But again, generally, during training, such issues which are common enough even in people who have never received any psych diagnosis nor ever received such treatment, can usually be ironed out.
But remember, too, that though it might not be too long a journey to become a lay counsellor, working within some structure and with supervision ( to help if you get in over your head, which is far easier than most people think ) ; to go the route of psychiatry takes many years ( 7 years medical school plus around 5 years post-graduate) ; and to be a fully qualified psychologist is only a bit shorter than that, but still easily 4 to 5 years total.
And while with some disorders one may be left with a lifelong vulnerability to further problems, which one can cope with and prevent, it's surely unduly pessimistic to represent psych conditions as ones that nobody is ever cured of.

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