Should you become a therapist if you struggle with a mental illness?

As many of my readers know, I’ve struggled with a number of serious mental illnesses since I was about 10 years old. However, what most of you will not know is that my goal is to become a therapist and help other people who are struggling with mental illness.

When I tell people that I want to become a therapist–particularly people who are not aware of my own mental health struggles–I find it difficult to be honest about what inspired me to pursue this career simply because I fear that people will think that my own struggles make me inadequate for such a career. I am afraid that people will think that I am weak or that I am in no position to help other people recover from an eating disorder when I am personally still struggling with recovery.

To be honest, I’m afraid of those criticisms because I recognize their validity. In fact, this is the reason why I decided to take some time off of school before pursuing my master’s degree in order to become a therapist. I recognize the fact that I cannot possibly hope to help people if I have not first helped myself.

I know myself well enough to know that I need some time to strengthen my recovery as well as grow as a person before I try to help people with the things that I have struggled with for years. I know that there is risk involved in such a career path because their is potential for the struggles of others to trigger a relapse in myself. However, my therapist believes that if we continue to work together for the next year I will be more than prepared to pursue my career goals in a year if I am accepted into a Master’s degree program.

I am incredibly lucky to have found such a supportive and committed therapist. Her faith in me is unwavering and I have no doubt in my mind that if she feels that my mental health will interfere with my ability to help others she will be honest with me and work with me until she is confident in my ability to help others without sacrificing my own mental health.

Accordingly, I believe that it is entirely possible for someone to become a therapist after struggling with their own mental illnesses as long as the individual is recovered and mentally healthy and stable. If an individual is still struggling with a mental illness it would be irresponsible and unethical to work as a therapist and risk further damaging their own mental health or that of their clients’. However, in individuals who have recovered and successfully overcome a mental illness I think there is potential for these individuals to be even more empathetic and understanding because they have lived through it themselves. In this sense, I think that people who have recovered from mental illnesses can offer wonderful insight and advice to their clients.

My hope is that over the next year I will continue to make progress with my recovery so that I can pursue my dream career if I am successful in my application to the Master’s program which I want to pursue.

Wish me luck!!

xo

Ayla

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One thought on “Should you become a therapist if you struggle with a mental illness?

  1. staystrong10 says:

    I’m in the same boat as you. One thing my counselor told me was that counsellors are human and imperfect too, which helps me not to think I have to be perfect to be a counselor. I do think our struggles will help us to help others. It’s a strength for us.

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