Monday, October 18, 2010

Therapists’ marital problems

Evan makes a good comment on the previous post about therapists working through their own transference with their spouse.

“I guess the therapist is the best possible person to help their spouse work through this transference”

I thought I would make a comment about this and thus I make another short vignette. I like that word vignette. It sounds like something you would find in a recipe book.

Question - How do therapist’s handle their own marital problems?

Answer - Just about the same as everyone else does.

Alf Garnet

Yes therapists are humans like clients and thus they have life scripts like clients do. Some have winners scripts, some non-winners scripts and some loser scripts.

There is a belief sometimes that a therapist would not have relationship problems because they are so well informed about relationships and human functioning. How can the expert in communication have his/her own communication problems?

This highlights an interesting point about psychotherapy. The difference between information and psychological change. Just because someone is informed does not mean they will act on that information. This is especially true in the human psyche.

clown & fag

When a client (or therapist) understands the games they play, this does not mean they will stop playing them. These are two quite distinct psychological tasks.

Becoming informed about about ones self defeating behaviours (psychological games) is a relatively easy Adult ego state exercise. Changing ones self defeating behaviours is a much more difficult Child ego state task. (If it was easy there would be no need to have therapists in the first place!).

Most therapists would be more informed about human communication than the average punter, so they have an advantage with their Adult ego state knowledge. But that is quickly equalised when it comes to implementing that knowledge with Child ego state life script change. In this way therapists are no different than your average punter.

Bubble blower

There is also (sometimes) a view that a therapist who has marital problems and a divorce cannot be expected to do productive marital therapy with clients.

“If you can’t get your own house into order how can you be expected to get a client’s house in order” is the view.

This is also a fallacious view. Simply put the skills required to do productive marital counselling with clients are very different to the skills required to keep ones own marriage in order. They are quite different psychological tasks.

However back to the original point at hand. Therapists have their life scripts and they will live them out like most others in the world. They also would, as a group, be more informed about human communication and relationships and thus this could be seen to assist them to sort out marital problems as they arise. But the bottom line is a life script is a life script. It is a awesome psychological force that is difficult to rework.

smoking teen

Some do alter their life script in varying degrees and some do not. Therapists and clients would be no different in this respect.



  1. immediately E. Berne comes to mind.
    Hey, old guy, if you are so smart and can see thru the games people play then why did you get married and divorced 3 times rather than establish a happy relationship at once :)

  2. I seemed to think that actually therapists have a higher propensity to be divorced / single.

  3. Yes Zbig,

    I think one of my very first blog posts I ever wrote was titled, Madness, Genius and creativity. The tragic (mad) person can be of great benefit to larger society because some also have the genius and creativity that sometimes goes along with the madness.

    Many people's marriages have benefitted from EBs creative insights for the past 50 years. Too bad his own marriage(s) did not


  4. Hi Kahless

    I don't know the statistics on that one my good friend. Maybe so. I have been divorced and I am a therapist so I have become a statistic!

    You mathameticians and your statistics!!


  5. Thanks Tony.

    I'd like to see another post on whether psychotherapy is about information and/or change and whether this applies to therapists. I think this is a whole nest of thorny issues and fascinating.

    I'm divorced too.

  6. I guess many people may instinctively agree with the Latin sentence "Medice, cura te ipsum" :)

    Would you go to a dietetician who's obese himself and would you use his advice?

    What don't they take into account - and I didn't either like say 2 years ago - that there's a fundamental difference between these two situation - management of e.g. fat tissue is something completely different from managing a relationship with all its dynamics and so on.

    What's more, a dietetician who used to be obese and then could find his way to leanness would be more credible to me that one who has never been overweight and is in his twenties. Same goes for a marriage counselor, just not every single marriage can be saved forever and sometimes the divorce is the optimal output.

  7. Zbig,

    Your comment makes me smile. I can only imagine how frustrating it must be for a dietician to have to live his life as a fat man in his profession. He can make other people lean but not himself. I am an information professional and one of the main things I tell all my clients is to keep a current backup of their stuff. My hard drive crashed last year and did I have anything backed up? Of course not. It’s totally infuriating when I can fix a problem for somebody else but I can’t fix it for myself, or I pay the penalty for not following my own advice.

  8. Hi Evan,

    OK I will see how I go. The question of information and change is an interesting one


  9. I think we will have to agree to disagree on this one Zbig,

    If a dietician can give me sound advice and help with dietry matters then it makes no difference to me what shape or size his/her body is.

    That is their issue and all I want is a good service and if they can give it to me then I am happy.