Why Is Life Experience Important for Developing Wisdom in Experienced Clinicians?

Seeking therapy can be an overwhelming experience for a new patient, especially if they’ve never gotten mental health help before. It can be a great boon when a therapist has their own experience with similar issues, including seeking therapy of their own. When you’re searching for the most experienced therapists in Montana, give some thought as to whether they’ve had similar experiences with mental health and related life issues. When a clinician can see an issue from a professional and lived perspective, they’re often better able to give guidance.

Help reduce the stigma of mental health challenges

One of the best ways a therapist with lived experience can help is by simply reducing the stigma of seeking mental healthcare. While there have been efforts to improve outreach over the past few decades, there’s still a significant stigma associated with getting therapy. Patients may feel that they’re “weak” or “broken” for needing help.

Therapists with direct lived experience are better able to address these feelings, particularly if they have experienced the same ones in their own life. Even indirect lived experience—that is, going through similar issues with a family member or friend—can inform them of the very real emotions, struggles and other issues that come along with getting help. This allows the therapist to better connect with their client. In turn, the patient may take comfort in knowing that even therapists seek therapy from time to time.

Improves empathy between therapist and client

Another reason lived experience is important is that it helps the clinician see the patient as an individual, rather than a condition to treat. (This tends to be more prominent in medical healthcare, but it can happen in therapy, too.) Therapists are better able to address the other causes, problems and related issues that come up when a patient confides in them.

For example, a therapist who suffers from depression might be able to spot potential “collateral damage” in a patient with the same condition—while in a depressive episode, are they pushing their close relationships away? Are they in danger of losing their job, or breaking up with their partner? While a therapist without depression can also spot these issues, someone who has experienced it directly or indirectly often has a more holistic idea of how the condition manifests—and an increased sense of empathy.

Deciding whether to disclose similar experiences

A therapist with lived experience may or not choose to disclose their experience with a client. It depends on their personal comfort level, ethical standards and whether they believe it would be helpful in fostering understanding. When talking to a potential new therapist, you are entitled to ask whether they have any personal experience with similar issues. They may not choose to disclose a positive answer, but if they do, you can use that in deciding whether to work with them further.

When you’re looking for experienced therapists near you in Havre, MT, Ellen Savage LCPC is here to help. Call today to learn more. Be sure to ask about distance counseling options!