What to Do When the Helper Needs Help

Physician mental health and therapy questions

You’re supposed to be the one who has it all together. Real life superheroes. But when your entire career is built around healing the sick and giving all you have to others-what happens when the helpers need the help too? As a licensed therapist and physician wife here are some answers to the most commonly asked questions about what therapy is like for doctors:

Will my employer/attendings/co-workers/family know I am in therapy? 

Rest assured that therapy, and everything discussed in sessions is confidential, including your name and diagnosis. Unless you reveal that information to someone it stays in the room. There are some limitations (harm to yourself or others, child abuse, judge’s order) but confidentially is of the utmost importance and protected by HIPAA like any other medical visit.

If using insurance is a concern, I have had treated many physicians who utilize a cash pay option.

What should I be seeking therapy for?

Anything in your life that is getting in the way of you living a life that you wish you had. There is a huge misconception that you have to be severely mentally ill to talk to someone, and I have made it my life’s mission to try to break this stigma.

There is always something to work on either from the past, present or planning for the future. Some of the most common concerns I see from physicians are: tools for managing depression or anxiety, battling burnout, relationship/communication struggles, work-life balance and even career changes.

What are therapy sessions like?

Think of your closest confidant or best friend and multiply that by 100 and that is what you get out of therapy. It is your hour to (judgment-free) talk about anyone or anything on your mind, ask questions, vent, cry, swear or sit in silence and just think. You also don’t have to worry about a friend chiming in with what you should do or interjecting their own problems-this is all about you. We help you with a game plan.

What if opening up to someone sounds intimidating or weird to me?

I always acknowledge that it is-at first at least. Telling your story to a stranger can feel awkward but once it is out there you can start releasing some of that burden and the lighter feeling takes over. We didn’t go into this profession to judge anyone (and we have truly heard it all), we want to help you figure out the best plan for your life and get you on your way.

How do I find someone who is the right fit?

It can sometimes be a numbers game and I often liken it to dating where once you find that person you will be comfortable and just know. Sometimes it takes a couple tries but I encourage you to not give up if the first one just isn’t int.

I recommend reading profiles and narrowing down your choices (Psychology Today has a great find a therapist option and if finances are a limitation Open Path Collective offers affordable visits without insurance). Many practitioners will give a 15 minute get-to-know-you phone call as well which can be a great tool.

Whatever your journey or path looks like to taking better care of yourself I commend you for taking charge. You went into your field to help others and one of the best things you can do for others is being a healthy, full version of yourself.

Kelly Houseman MS, LLPC

Kelly Houseman MS, LLPC

Kelly Houseman is a licensed therapist and mental health advocate, public speaker, blogger, podcast host, and wellness expert based in the Metro-Detroit area. She has spent her career advocating for reducing the stigma surrounding mental health issues while bringing her unique insight and humor to current topics - from social media to global pandemics. Her platforms include her blog, Instagram, Facebook, Podcast and YouTube channel.

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