Is it ethical to provide guidance and counseling (in a professional setting) if you yourself suffer from the same conditions and have not surpassed them?

In answer to the question “Is it ethical to provide guidance and counseling (in a professional setting) if you yourself suffer from the same conditions and have not surpassed them?”

Surpassed? I’m not sure what is meant by this term. I don’t know of anyone who has “surpassed” anything. Sure, they’ve learned to manage, self-monitor, develop alternate habits, become more disciplined, heal deep and chronic wounds to varying degrees, become incrementally more whole, etc. But “surpassed?” I think that’s probably an ego-based term for a particular flavor of narcissistic delusion, and has no place in any therapeutic or mentoring relationship.

That said, if we replace “surpassed” with “learned to constructively manage,” then I would say it depends — on many different factors, including the nature and severity of your condition, where you are in your own healing/wholeness journey, and the functional level of self-management you have been able to maintain over time.

So for instance:

1. A therapeutic relationship dealing with out-of-control addictions (of any kind) should probably not be entered into by a professional suffering from an out-of-control addiction. Even when, as some of the other answers indicate, that condition can be helpful to empathy and informed therapeutic or mentoring techniques, it can also be extremely destructive to the relationship, and likely to the person you are trying to help. So in that case…a firm “not ethical” IMO (again, if it is still unmanaged). I think the same would be true of unmanaged depression, unmanaged severe personality disorders, unmanaged schizophrenia, unmanaged self-destructive behaviors, unmanaged anger and hostility, unmanaged anxiety, unmanaged compulsions, unmanaged relationship dynamics, etc.

2. On the other hand, if you have demonstrated a high level of efficacy in managing a particular area, are maintaining genuine intentions to continue that course, and have become more high-functioning over time (i.e. can have a modicum of confidence about a given technique or process), then why not share your experiences in the therapeutic or mentoring relationship? Again, mastery is not really the issue…rather, it’s about ongoing integrity around your own intentions, and regarding your efficacy in “walking the walk” in your own life. In such a case, a conditional “ethical” IMO.

3. A very common pattern in folks who become healers, teachers, mentors, therapists, counselors, etc. is that they are initially drawn to the field because of their own struggles. This can be both helpful and unhelpful. On the one hand, they can understand and inhabit the perspective of the people they are trying to help, because they’ve been through it themselves. On the other hand, they may fall into a pattern of projecting their own desire for self-healing onto their clients, students or patients. In other words, they may perpetually be externalizing their own issues. At some point, a good teacher/mentor/therapist/healer will recognize this pattern in themselves, and address it. They may need to take a break from practice to do so. Or they may feel they need to give up the field entirely. This is a reality/integrity check that everyone I’ve known — across many different fields — eventually has to confront. Perhaps that’s where you are now, but the answer is going to be different for every person, and at different stages of their life. It’s a process where we must measure our own strengths and weaknesses against the effectiveness of our work…and when we must finally learn to check our ego at the door — and let go of our own issues — every time we engage with the person we are trying to help.

My 2 cents.


Trackback specific URI for this entry

This link is not meant to be clicked. It contains the trackback URI for this entry. You can use this URI to send ping- & trackbacks from your own blog to this entry. To copy the link, right click and select "Copy Shortcut" in Internet Explorer or "Copy Link Location" in Mozilla.

No Trackbacks


Display comments as Linear | Threaded

No comments

The author does not allow comments to this entry