This is not a blog I write lightly. Additionally, I want to provide a warning: if you are not in a good place, please do not read this. If you are currently triggered or recently triggered (from a trauma standpoint), then please do not read this. The very last thing in the world that I want to do is to create more harm, and subsequently hurt more people.
For over the last twenty years, I have been a huge proponent of healers doing their own work! In the start of my career, I worked in a substance abuse treatment center. That job provided for me a very solid foundation as well as phenomenal examples of what happens when helpers are working on themselves. I will never forget one particular coworker I had. She made it her personal mission to prove every client was lying or hiding something. I truly believed she missed her calling as a private detective. This is an example that I have experienced so many times through my life, both professionally and personally.
When I was 18, my friends helped me to develop the awareness of the fact that my coping skills were not exactly “normal” and not at all healthy. I decided to take therapy, and I remember vividly the first meeting with the therapist. I explained to him that I didn’t necessarily think we’d be a good fit: he was a man, and I had a specific aversion to men. His response to me was kind and thoughtful. He told me to give him a try and let him know if we weren’t a good fit, and if we weren’t a good fit, he would help me find someone who could be. After about six months of sessions spent looking at pictures of his perfect family taking amazing vacations, I made "The Call." I remember that I told him I just didn’t think I was getting what I needed to out of therapy. That’s when he betrayed my trust: he began to yell at me and blamed it all on me. I was done at that point.
This was an example of the therapist not doing his work on himself. If he was working on himself, he wouldn’t have needed to coerce me into working with him when I wasn’t comfortable. My experience is fairly benign from a betrayal standpoint, yet it’s a betrayal nonetheless.
With the introduction of so much counseling, therapy, coaching, and energy management happening online, I really had hoped that this would eliminate some of the betrayals that occur. Sadly, it has not done that at all. On some level, it has actually increased the betrayals, the abandonment, and the undelivered promises. I’m going to carefully group some of the things that other people have experienced as a result of working with unwell people. This is not a complete list it’s simply a generalization. The breaches include:
- lack of confidentiality
- having sexual relationships with clients
- disappearing from providing services
- blocking clients on social media as soon as the work is done
- not being equipped or educated in providing services to people in need
The list could go on and on and on. Some of this is not new by any stretch of the imagination.
More than 10 years ago, I actually had to fire a professional for having sexual relationships with clients.
If you have experienced any of these betrayals I want you to know some things up front: I am sorry that you have been hurt and disappointed by people who were supposed to help you. My biggest fear and worry is that someone will be hurt or harmed by a person that is supposed to help them. This shakes me to the core! As a professional, I am called to do the hard work on myself first!
I feel called now, more than ever, to empower everyone to make informed decisions on who they are working with and who they are trusting with their inner work. These tips are just what I use in my personal life and what I encourage the people I work with to utilize. I provide a free consultation for anyone who wants to make sure we are a good fit. Here’s the difference as well: if we are not a good fit, and this is not working for either one of us through the process, I will help them find a better fit. I’m committed to the healing and growth process. My suggestions are just born out of my experience, they are not coming from a place of arrogance or entitlement. They are as follows:
1. Check References: I’m very fortunate in that I have an excellent reputation. I typically and consistently over-deliver from a content standpoint, and am very invested in empowering the people I work with. I have past clients who have consented to reference me if others are interested or looking for a reference. Word of mouth is an amazing thing in my world. People are typically willing to share with their family and friends that I’m working with them.
2. Ask The Hard Questions: I don’t enjoy being seen as intrusive. However, it’s not intrusive when you are going to invest money, time, energy, and open your trauma and mental health up to people. If you are considering working with me, I consider myself an open book. You can ask me any question necessary to make sure that we are a good fit. I don’t want people having doubt, fear or suspicion during our work.
3. Trust Your Gut: Each and every time you have a doubt, fear, worry, or concern; honor it! If your “Spidey Senses” are alerting you that an issue has arisen, don’t push it away. Identify it, investigate it, evaluate it, and then make an informed decision. You’re being notified that there is an issue for a reason, so let’s figure out what that reason is. I’m a big advocate for honoring your intuition.
4. Observe and Watch: I mean this one almost literally. Before I invest in a person or decide to work with them, I watch them for a while. Some professionals can sit and spew stuff all day long, meanwhile they are living a life that is a hot mess sandwich filled with poo. If you are living in poo, I’m going to go out on a limb and suspect that you are not a healing helper.
5. Who Is Leading Them: I’m a huge proponent for the concept that every good therapist needs a good therapist. Same thing is true for coaches, healers, mentors, etc. Human beings are a work in progress. We are never “cured”. The reason I am still working with coaches, healers, and therapists on my own junk is clear: I want to make sure to keep my stuff out of your appointments. You deserve that!
6. Do They Walk Their Talk: It is crucial to me that the people I am working with do what they tell me to do. Part of my personal ethics is that I’m unwilling to suggest tips or tools to my clients that I have not implemented in my own life. I will be perfectly honest with my clients and explain to them why I don’t use mindfulness. I will educate and empower them to be able to make informed decisions about whether or not it’s a tool they want to implement. I also admit to my clients that I am not perfect and I am very very human.
7. Check Their Boundaries: Having boundaries is a sign of a healthy person. I’m not trying to encourage rigid boundaries or even an air of better than, but boundaries help to make sure that your needs get met. If there are no boundaries then stuff gets murky and it becomes difficult to determine where you begin and I end.
8. Consent, Consent, Consent: Consent is the very foundation upon which I practice! Everything - and I do mean everything - starts and ends at consent. This is why I ask my clients what they prefer to be called, why I don’t randomly hug my clients, and why I don’t touch my clients without permission. Consent allows you to explain what you are comfortable discussing or doing and what you are not. Consent also allows me to know who can know what about what we have discussed.
9. Coercion Is NEVER Okay: You are always in control. Healthy Healers, Coaches, and Therapists don’t make covert threats about how you are not willing to grow or heal because you won’t mortgage your home. Coercion has no place in the healing relationship! When working with me (and other ethically-minded people like me) I promise that I will never coerce you to: talk about what you are not ready or willing to talk about, do what you are not willing or comfortable to do, go to places you are not comfortable going, or any other variation of this.
For those of you who have read my blogs before, you know my typical framework is Shame. I’ve altered this slightly for this blog because I want to empower people to no longer be bullied into the Shame of silent suffering. Or worse yet, be manipulated and Shamed into continuing to work with the people that would betray the trust of their clients in this way. I would love to hear your experiences if you feel like sharing. Reply and let me know how this article has affected you and your personal stories!
Jenn Bovee is a Shame Busting Coach and Psychotherapist. She works with people all over the world. Learn more about her here: www.JennBovee.com