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What is a Wounded Healer?
In Greek mythology, the centaur ‘Chiron’ was known as the ‘Wounded Healer’. Chiron was poisoned by one of Hercules’ arrows, but because he was not able to heal himself he suffered thereafter from an incurable wound.
The Psychoanalyst, Carl Jung, developed this phenomenon by stating that “a good half of every treatment that probes at all deeply consists in the doctor’s examining himself…it is his own hurt that gives a measure of his power to heal. This, and nothing else, is the meaning of the Greek myth of the wounded physician.”
Latterly, the term ‘Wounded Healer’ has expanded from Jung’s original concept to cover the study of any professional healer who has been psychologically wounded, including counsellors, psychotherapists, doctors and nurses.
Alison Barr, director of The Green Rooms, is active in counselling and psychotherapy research. Alison believes that specialised research is crucial to the development of the profession, and, to ensure that clients are being offered the best possible support and intervention.
Alison has published research titled, ‘An Investigation into the extent to which Psychological Wounds inspire Counsellors and Psychotherapists to become Wounded Healers, the significance of these Wounds on their Career Choice, the causes of these Wounds and the overall significance of Demographic Factors’. Alison presented this paper at the 2006 COSCA Research Dialogue, and received an enthusiastic reception.
At the Green Rooms we believe that research such as this is important, as it allows us to understand the impact psychological wounds can have. The research may also be useful for counsellors and psychotherapists by encouraging them to further examine their own reasons for pursuing a therapeutic career.
AN INVESTIGATION INTO THE EXTENT TO WHICH PSYCHOLOGICAL WOUNDS INSPIRE COUNSELLORS AND PSYCHOTHERAPISTS TO BECOME WOUNDED HEALERS, THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THESE WOUNDS ON THEIR CAREER CHOICE, THE CAUSES OF THESE WOUNDS AND THE OVERALL SIGNIFICANCE OF DEMOGRAPHIC FACTORS
This study investigates the extent to which psychological wounds inspire therapists to become wounded healers, the significance of these wounds on career choice, the causes of these wounds and the overall significance of demographic factors.
An on-line questionnaire was conducted (253 respondents). Pilot and verification studies were performed. A pluralist approach was used with the quantitative data analysed using descriptive and inferential statistics and the qualitative data analysed using thematic analysis, with a grounded theory approach.
73.9% of therapists have experienced one or more wounding experiences leading to career choice and 26.1% have not.
In relation to the significance of the event(s) on career choice, when merging ‘probably chosen career regardless’ with ‘possibly chosen career regardless’, and ‘unlikely chosen career regardless’ with ‘not considered career otherwise’, there is a slight majority in relation to the former. There are no significant differences in relation to demographic factors.
In relation to whether one or more psychologically wounding experiences led to the choice of a career as a therapist, there is a significant difference within designation, gender, grouping gender and ethnicity, and, grouping gender and age. There are no significant differences within approach, ethnicity or age.
The majority of the wounds were caused by events experienced directly by the respondents (65%) as opposed to indirectly or both. Within demographic factors, the causes of the wounding experiences leading to career choice are not statistically significant.
The exact causes of the wounds vary enormously. The main categories are abuse, family life as a child, mental ill-health (own), social, family life as an adult, bereavement, mental ill-health (others), life threatening, physical ill-health (others), physical ill-health (own), and, other.
Many implications for the future of the therapeutic world have been highlighted. These focus mainly on supervision and training. Opportunities for further research have been highlighted.
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