Mandating students to participate in individual or group therapy can be both beneficial as well as detrimental. After reviewing the literature, it is apparent that there is evidence to support both perspectives. However, the process of therapy can never be all good or all bad. The inferred issue is the expectation that the experience of therapy must align with an educational framework. This perspective is counter-intuitive to the process of therapy. Psychology programs align their goals to develop competent and professional individuals. However, how do they align their programs to develop the skills a psychologist in training will attain while participating in individual therapy? Programs include experience-based learning environments such as practicums and internships. Do these forms of experience successfully develop the student identity or psychologist identity?
The use of individual therapy has been proven to be effective and helpful for students to gain a better understanding of the field of psychology (Kumari, 2011; Malikiosi-Loizos, 2013; Murphy et al., 2018). I have found therapy to be a haven for me to explore my perceptions of being a student, a therapist, and a psychologist. Most importantly, I have made great strides in understanding more about myself. Students require developing the skills of self-awareness, personal development, and gaining knowledge surrounding interpersonal dynamics (Murphy et al., 2018). I believe that therapy should be pro-choice! If you decide to explore therapy on your own, you are likely to build autonomy and can also take steps to ensure your privacy and confidentiality. Therapy can also build self-awareness; I have learned to recognize my countertransference with others. This process is always evolving. Therapy can be used as a space to reflect and introspect on one’s experiences. The theme of personal and professional development has been identified in the literature. This benefit allows for students to recognize their reactions, beliefs, values, principles, morals, and areas of contention within themselves (Ciclitira, Starr, Marzano, Brunswick & Costa, 2012; Grimmer & Tribe, 2001). The overall aim of this benefit is to help students increase their ability to introspect on their experiences. Therapy has also helped me become more mindful of my internal and external patterns.
My therapist has served multiple roles within our therapeutic relationship. For example, she offers insights into my dissertation ideas, my classroom experiences, and navigating the field of psychology. She also explores personal insights with me to aid in my self-development and therapist-development. Murphy et al. (2018) also report that the use of mandatory therapy must be identified as an experiential pedagogical device. I did, at first, have concerns regarding her ability to help me in all of these areas as I did not want to use her as a supervisor or mentor. However, her ability to adapt to my needs allowed me to recognize my ability to offer insights to my clients in a way that accepted all facets of their identity.
I have also had issues in therapy, revolving the financial burden of weekly sessions. I expressed this issue with my therapist, and I have now begun to utilize her sliding scale option. This option was more affordable for me. I choose to make time to seek therapy. I value my experience in therapy, as well as my therapist’s input. I have yet to ask her questions regarding her therapeutic style and interventions. However, I have picked up on a few and continue to store her wisdom secretly.
- Arthur-Williams, S. (2020). Ethical Considerations of APA Code 7.05: Doctoral Student
- Receiving Individual or Group Therapy While in a Psy.d or Ph.D. Program. Unpublished manuscript, Carlow University.
- Ciclitira, K., Starr, F., Marzano, L., Brunswick, N., & Costa, A. (2012). Women counsellors’ experiences of personal therapy: A thematic analysis. Counselling and Psychotherapy Research, 12, 136–145.
- Grimmer, A., & Tribe, R. (2001). Counselling psychologists’ perceptions of the impact of mandatory personal therapy on professional development: An exploratory study. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, 14, 287–301
- Kumari, N. (2011). Personal therapy as a mandatory requirement for counselling psychologists in training: A qualitative study of the impact of therapy on trainees’ personal and professional development. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, 24, 211–232
- Murphy, D., Irfan, N., Barnett, H., Castledine, E., & Enescu, L. (2018). A systematic review and meta‐synthesis of qualitative research into mandatory personal psychotherapy during training. Counselling And Psychotherapy Research, 18(2), 199-214.
- Malikiosi-Loizos, M. (2013). Personal Therapy for Future Therapists: Reflections on a Still Debated Issue. The European Journal Of Counselling Psychology, 2(1), 33-50.