Therapy for Future Therapists

Think You Want to Become a Therapist?

Go to Therapy!

“Understanding why people suffer,

how they change, and how to help them live satisfying lives

is a fascinating and important undertaking.”

~John & Rita Sommers-Flanagan

by Gavin Hannegan, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo undergraduate intern, supervised by Dr. Hannah Roberts

How can you tell if being a therapist is the right career path for you? Maybe you know that you want to help others through therapy. You might want to work with a specific population, or specialize in certain topics. Or maybe you’re interested in learning more about the vast diversity of mental health. Although these interests are great, they may not provide a full picture of all that therapists do. And Google searching may only give you half the story. If you’re thinking about becoming a therapist, one of the best resources to help you decide is to experience therapy for yourself. Therapy for future therapists can be a guiding force–even for your career! Here are some ways that therapy can equip you for your future endeavors into this helping profession.

The Skills You Learn Will Be Shared With Your Own Clients

Consider your own personal development throughout therapy. If you feel like you have made powerful strides towards becoming your better self, that is a good indicator that you can leave a positive impact on your future clients. Because each client has their own unique background, your clients may not respond to your self-care strategies in exactly the same ways. But there are some core components of personal development that both therapists and clients can help foster. 

Take empathy, for instance. Empathy is a skill that can be strengthened in people over time just by having practice with identifying and responding to the emotions of others (van Berkhout & Malouff, 2015). Therapy for future therapists is an ideal place to develop these skills, whether you’re the client or the therapist. In this safe space, clients can talk about their relationship problems and learn where the emotions of a friend, partner, or family member may be coming from. Throughout their practice, therapists gain multicultural competence and learn how to connect with clients that may seem completely different from them. By practicing empathy yourself, you can become a model of empathy for others.

Another valuable skill is self-reflection. A quick check-in with yourself can go a long way. In one study, CBT trainees reported that engaging in self-reflective practices, such as writing about one’s experiences, improved their ability to function not only in their personal lives, but also in their clinical programs (Chigwedere et al., 2021). Self-reflective questions may look something like this:

  • “How has this new self-care strategy been working for me?”
  • “What are some ways I can help this client feel more comfortable during our sessions?”
  • “How can I hold more empathy towards this person in my life?”

Self-reflection allows you to be more present towards the people that you care about, including yourself. And like with empathy, this is a skill that is important for both clients and therapists. Set some time throughout your day to complete some of these check-ins and gain experience with self-reflection. If you do decide to become a therapist, you can use your own experiences to help develop self-reflective practices with your clients. We are constantly learning from others, so there’s no need to keep these skills a secret.

You Gain Direct Insight Into the Day-to-Day Life of a Therapist

Beyond just working with clients, consider what the working environment is like for a therapist. For those who attend therapy through a private practice, ask yourself if this is a setting that you would feel comfortable working at full- or part-time. Do you also feel comfortable meeting in-person or online? Also, think about the types of therapy techniques that you’ve been exposed to (CBT, mindfulness-based interventions, etc.) and whether there’s any particular one that you would feel confident practicing with clients. All of these questions may seem overwhelming at first, but the more therapy sessions you have, the more experience you’ll have to help you address these questions. Even if you’ve never worked in the field of mental health, you’ll still gain some familiarity with the environment. You may also need to consider aspects of the job that you may not directly see, such as taking session notes or promoting your practice. Additionally, you may be used to only one hour a week with your therapist, but keep in mind that therapists have to meet with multiple clients throughout the week. 

If you still have questions about what being a therapist is like, you could ask your therapist, but do so sparingly. Although the focus of your therapy is on you, it’s common to want to know more about your therapist. Some clients feel more comfortable in the therapeutic relationship when their therapists allow their clients to feel curious or ask questions about them (González et al., 2022). Your therapist is a resource, and they want to support you. Just be aware that your therapist may not answer every question you have, or answer them as directly as someone like a career counselor would. Another option is to ask your therapist to connect you with someone who would be more willing to answer questions about the field.

Yes, Even Therapists Go to Therapy!

Our therapists are sometimes made out to be all-knowing beings that have the answers to every question. Or that they’re free from any sort of mental health concern because they are a therapist. But therapists, just like everyone else, can grow and develop into better versions of themselves. Hearing from your therapist directly that they also benefit from therapy can help you feel more comfortable with your therapist and may even reduce your own mental health symptoms (Levitt et al., 2015). Therapy needs to be demystified, and this transparency is one of the key ways that this can be achieved. This can be incredibly validating for clients and, over time, it reduces the stigma against mental health treatment.

Along with their personal lives, therapists also strive to become better at their jobs. Outside of a session, therapists may use “deliberate practice” to develop personalized strategies to hone their interpersonal skills. One study described the various forms that deliberate practice can take, which included:

  • Basic skill development such as listening and challenging clients
  • Relationship-based work such as establishing authenticity, and
  • Self-care exercises such as learning how to say no (McLeod, 2021).

It is unrealistic (and too stressful!) to aim for perfection while attending therapy. The same goes for therapists: you don’t need to be perfect to be a strong support system for your clients. 

Each session you have with a therapist gives you more insight into what therapy is like and how to be an effective therapist. Your growth throughout your own therapy sessions can inspire your current and future clients, whether you’re just beginning your career or have been a therapist for decades. By healing yourself, you can heal those around you. Best of luck as you explore this rewarding field!

Have more questions or feel like you need supportive therapy? Schedule a session with one of our therapists today! You can schedule online here!

We hope you enjoyed this blog post! Have more topics you’d like us to blog about? Contact us and we’ll be sure to include your topic in a future post!


Chigwedere, C., Bennett-Levy, J., Fitzmaurice, B., & Donohoe, G. (2020). Personal practice in counselling and CBT trainees: The self-perceived impact of personal therapy and self-practice/self-reflection on personal and professional development. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, 50(5), 422-438.

González, J. M., Pérez-Rojas, A. E., Darby, M. E., & Marks, E. C. (2022). “Where have you been in this world?” A qualitative study of clients’ curiosity about their psychotherapists. Psychotherapy, 59(4), 572-583.

Levitt, H. M., Minami, T., Greenspan, S. B., Puckett, J. A., Henretty, J. R., Reich, C. M., & Berman, J. S. (2015). How therapist self-disclosure relates to alliance and outcomes: A naturalistic study. Counseling Psychology Quarterly, 29(1), 7-28.

McLeod, J. (2021). How students use deliberate practice during the first stage of counsellor training. Counselling and Psychotherapy Research, 22(1), 207-218.

van Berkhout, E. T. & Malouff, J. M. (2015). The efficacy of empathy training: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 63(1), 32-41.