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The Importance of Personal Therapy on Psychotherapy Students Research Paper

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Updated: Jan 23rd, 2020


This pilot study investigate the attitudes of trainee therapists towards the current fifty hours of mandatory personal counselling needed for completion of their studies at diploma level. It determines whether it should be more or less, and what else would be beneficial in becoming a counsellor or psychotherapist. In this study, ten students of psychotherapy completed a questionnaire. This questionnaire comprised of eight quantitative Likert questions, and two qualitative questions.


The field of psychotherapy is known for solving many ailments and mental problems whose cause was mental and emotional sicknesses. The psychotherapy came as a means to assist the clinical therapist to unravel the emotional and the mental dispositions that threatened health of the patients. Psychotherapy is therefore a robust field, which is gaining acceptance all over the world.

As a part of study to qualify as a practicing psychotherapist one is required to undergo fifty hours of personal therapy. Personal therapy is where one is supposed to go to a therapist as a patient although in mind, one may not be sick or in dire need of clinical psychotherapy.

This research report will delve into what other scholars have studied on this subject. It will look into how students of psychotherapy feel about this practice whether it is beneficial to them or not. The other aspect that this research will delve into is that of whether the mandatory fifty hours of personal therapy are enough or not. The report will include the findings of the report and the discussion. The final part of this report will deal with the recommendation or the way forward because of this study.

Literature review

There is a lot of study assessing the role of personal therapy that students of psychotherapy have to undergo in the fulfilment of their course work. There have been various arguments, some that are supportive to this practice while others are negate and see it as a futile procedure that is not necessary. Norcross (2010) indicates that, it did not assist her in getting the much-needed internship, which she was looking for. Irrespective of such feelings, there are a number of reasons, which make this personal therapy important to the scholars.

Freud, the founder of psychotherapy and psychoanalysis was the first advocate of students undertaking this practice. He also went for psychotherapy, which he felt, was a relief and that it helped him to recuperate and deal with his personal issues. Personal therapy for the psychotherapy students is as important as for the therapist himself as it ensures that personal problems and issues do not influence the therapist when offering therapy to a patient.

There is likelihood that the psychotherapists’ personal values and experiences in life may affect the manner in which they treat the patients. To ensure that this does not happen, early training of psychotherapy by taking the clients seat and feeling how the clients feel is a way of becoming a good psychotherapists (Barley & Lambert 2001).

This training is imperative as it ensures that the students develop listening skills. When the students attend the therapy as clients, they see the importance of an empathetic therapist who is able to get into their shoes and identify with their feelings without prejudice. Without ever having to attend this therapy, the student would not learn how to be empathetic. This is an important quality required for anyone to be an effective psychotherapist.

Psychotherapy demands courage from the patient as it involves getting to a stranger and unloading one’s frustrations, fears, uncertainties and success. This is not easy and at times clients are not cooperative and unless the beginner psychotherapist appreciates this fact by sitting at the clients sit one would not ask the patients the necessary questions in fear that it affects the patients’ privacy or feelings (Herman 1993).

Various studies show that students who attended personal therapy also believed that they became more patient and tolerant to other people. During the clinical therapy, it is likely for the patient to pause and think or make unclear statements, which they will elaborate later (Lafferty 1989). Without having gone for such a therapy and without knowing the difficulty of putting ones experiences in words one may fail to understand some of the clients expressions which is not good for clinical therapy.

Students who attended these trainings acknowledged that they stopped putting words in patients mouth and offering unnecessary advice without listening to them. It enables the learners not to avoid the difficult periods of the psychotherapy that are imperative to the patient’s progress. This is an important skill in psychotherapy to enable the clients discover their problems (Lambert 1996).

The other benefit to students who undergo personal psychotherapy is that they gain knowledge of self. This knowledge is critical to any practising psychotherapist as survey done by Association of Psychiatrist indicates that it makes them aware of their personal biases and perceptions and how they react to different situations.

This self-knowledge makes it easier for the practitioner to gain a deeper understanding of the client’s needs and personality without indulging ones biases and personal values. This is imperative in ensuring success as a psychotherapist (Lambert 1996).

Personal therapy classes and gaining self-knowledge help the students to protect the clients from harm. This is because it becomes easier to know how client is likely to respond to certain information based on their personality because they can identify personality types from listening to the client’s words. Knowledge coupled with the increased listening and empathy skills help the student to prevent the client from harm by formulating the relevant therapy and solutions to the patients’ problems and challenges (Barley & Lambert 2001).

The other importance of the personal therapy undergone by students of psychotherapy is that it reduces the stigma associated with psychotherapy. Psychotherapy is challenging and most people do not seek for therapy unless they have problems such as depression.

Going for therapy when one is healthy needs acceptance in the society and there is no better way of making this happen other than ensuring that the students of psychotherapy accept its role in their lives. A psychotherapist who stigmatises or fears taking therapy would be like preaching water and taking wine (Sperry 2003).

Concerning the quantity of time, there is recommendation of fifty hours of therapy. Various studies indicate that the fifty hours are moderately enough. However, there is no conclusive opinion on the number of hours.

Some scholars feel that these hours are too many and likely to create boredom and dislike for psychotherapy while others argue that after the psychotherapy they feel excited and look forward to the next session (Macran 1999). Concerning the necessity of this personal therapy there is a general feeling among different scholars that it enabled them to develop critical skills that are useful in the execution of their duties.

Research methodology

The research focused on ten students of psychotherapy in an attempt to ensure that, the work is successful and the research identified the correct responses and feeling of psychotherapy students in Ireland. Although the sample appears to be small, it is a representative as psychotherapy students are not as many as compared with students in other disciplines such as business, arts or science. Sampling was random by picking the students from the psychotherapy diploma register and no criterion was adopted as a means of sampling.

There was adoption of the two research methodologies as one methodology could not collect the data satisfactorily. This is because there was need for both qualitative and quantitative data to make the study successful. The number of students who agreed on whether the practice was relevant needed quantitative data collection. However, the reasons and feelings behind their responses required qualitative data collection method (Martin 2000).

Ten students attending XXX College, Dublin, Ireland, participated in this study. They were counselling and psychotherapy students who volunteered their time during a research module to fill questionnaires. The module tutor monitored all work to ensure that it was done according to the instructions provided.

The questionnaire assessed the participant’s views on personal therapy during training, should it be mandatory? Has it been beneficial? Is it necessary to continue after the mandatory fifty hours? The questionnaire used eight Likert questions that were quantitative and two open qualitative questions.


The following are the findings from the survey. The results indicated that most of the students felt that the personal therapy was necessary. Fifty per cent of the students strongly agreed that the research was necessary; twenty percent agreed that it was necessary and twenty percent were undecided. None of the student disagreed about the necessity of personal therapy as an important part of their study. (n=8) is the number of students who agreed that personal therapy is important.

On whether the student would have completed their studies even without personal therapy forty per cent of the students agreed that they would not have been able to complete their coursework if they had not experienced personal therapy. Forty percent were undecided or unaware of the importance of personal therapy in their studies.

Two per cent disagreed that personal therapy affected their ability to complete their studies and to become therapists. However, the opinion of those supporting personal therapy outnumbered those who disagreed concerning its contribution to ones success in the coursework.

Concerning the importance of personal therapy in continuing personal development, (n=7) seventy percent of the student agreed that it was important. The other thirty percent of the students were undecided. None of the student felt that the personal therapy was not important in their personal development.

On whether the students felt that their personal therapist was fully congruent and understanding most of the responses were positive with fifty percent strongly agreeing that they felt their personal therapist was understanding and aware of their feelings. Thirty percent agreed while twenty percent were undecided. This indicates that there was a strong feeling that the personal therapists were understanding and congruent with the students.

About the relationship between being a client and being a good therapist, (n=7) agreed that one cannot make a good therapist if they cannot let themselves sit at the patient’s seat and experience how it feels. Thirty percent of the students were undecided on this matter. There was no student who disagreed that there was a relationship between having gone through personal therapy and becoming a good therapist.

Concerning whether the personal therapy that the students had in any way influenced their style of therapy, ninety percent agreed. This time there was nobody who was undecided about this matter. However, ten percent of the students disagreed that personal therapy had influenced their style of therapy. This percentage of disagreement is quite high and reasons of their disagreement need to be unearthed.

The importance of continuing with the personal therapy even after the mandatory fifty hours received strong agreement for it to be continued even after the fifty hours of personal therapy. Twenty percent were undecided on whether this should go on or not, however it is imperative to note that there was no student who disagreed that the mandatory fifty hours of personal therapy need an increment.

The last area of study was on how the student felt on being clients and whether it made it easy for them to be counsellors. N=10 agreed that playing the role of client assisted them in their development as counsellors. This only varied where eighty percent strongly agreed while twenty percent mildly agreed.

However, this was unanimous show that the students felt personal therapy enabled them to play their role as counsellors very effectively. The other part of the responses was qualitative and it differed with the students giving detailed reasons as to why they felt that personal therapy was necessary to them.


The necessity of personal therapy to the student therapists is not questionable with most of the students agreeing that it is necessary to them for their future practice as psychotherapist. The strength was shown by the fact that eighty percent agreed with these and there was no disagreement. On whether the personal therapy enables the student to complete their studies in a successful way the answer is positive as seventy percent of the students agreed about this with a minority of the students adopting a different opinion.

On the relevance of personal therapy and its influence on the students’ personal development, there was a widespread agreement that it was important. However, the percentage of undecided students is worth noting.

Thirty percent, who are undecided on such issue shows that they have not felt any impact of the personal therapy on the development of their personal lives. It indicates that the therapy may not have assisted the student to develop the skills needed in personal therapy such as listening skills and empathy. Specialized research on the undecided students is required to establish why these students are undecided.

The percentage of students who agreed that their personal therapist was understanding and congruent with their needs was seventy percent. This shows that the capability of the therapist who is dealing with the students is important in making them understand and feel the importance of personal therapy.

However, there were those who were undecided. These figures of indecision are worrying because they show that some of the students are unaware of the importance of personal therapy and their inability to judge situations that are very important for a therapist is lacking. However, it is imperative to note that there were no students who disagreed on this.

The students were of the opinion that there was a relationship between being a good therapist and going for personal therapy. Their feeling concur with those of the previous studies conducted by other scholars that personal therapy is important for any therapist.

The style of therapy directly relates to the style of their personal therapist. This is because ninety per cent of the students agreed that they adopted their style from their personal therapist.

This affirms the earlier statement that there is need for the students to have personal therapist who are highly qualified as they have a lot of influence on how the students will practice psychotherapy on their patients. However, one student disagreed and it is important to identify whom he felt this style of therapy modelled after. This is because it indicates that ten percent of the students’ style of their therapy was different from that of their personal therapist.

There is need to increase the mandatory number of hours for student’s personal therapy. This is because the number of students who lived in the institution felt that it was necessary for such measures to take place. Eighty percent of the students agreed to support this. This strong feeling about personal therapy indicates the role, which it plays on the practice of the students. Increasing the number of hours would certainly be necessary.

The personal therapies that students undergo ensure that they become good counsellors. This is because of the skills they develop from their experience as clinical patients of psychotherapy. In fact, all the students agreed that personal therapy helped them to become good counsellors.

Limitations of the study

This study was however limited in a number of ways. The scope although representation is small may not represent a diverse feeling of all psychotherapy students in Ireland. The study also failed to classify the students in terms of their demographics such as age and gender as this may affect their perception on psychotherapy.

People would be interested to know how many male students felt that the improved therapy made them good counsellors and how many female students felt likewise. In addition, the study did not look into the specific capabilities that the students developed because of this personal therapy. It is imperative to know whether their empathy and listening skills improved from the fifty hours, which they spent with their personal psychotherapist.


Personal psychotherapy on the students is indeed important to those who intend to become psychotherapists or counsellors. The skills and experiences received from that practice prove that personal therapy in the field of psychotherapy is not an outdated practice. This is a major area of influence on the students of psychotherapy.

Its role in framing the students’ style of therapy is effective. In addition, it is important for the personal progress of the students in all aspects of their lives as proved in this study. Other than that, it is imperative to increase the mandatory hours of students’ personal psychotherapy. This will make the students more competent as counsellors as well as psychotherapists.


Barley, D & Lambert, M 2001, Research summary on the therapeutic relationship and psychotherapy outcome, Psychotherapy, vol. 38, no. 4, pp. 357-361.

Herman, K 1993, Reassessing predictors of therapist competence, Journal of Counselling & Development, vol. 72, pp. 29-32.

Lafferty, P 1989, Differences between more and less effective psychotherapists: A study of select therapist variables. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, vol. 57, no. 1, pp. 76-80.

Lambert, M 1996, Current findings regarding the effectiveness of counselling: Implications for practice, Journal of Counselling &Development, vol. 74, pp. 601-608.

Macran, S 1999, How does personal therapy affect therapists’ practice? Journal of Counselling Psychology, vol. 46, no. 4, pp. 419-431

Martin, D 2000, Relation of therapeutic alliance with outcome and other variables: A meta-analytic review, Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, vol. 68, pp. 438-450

Norcross, R 2010, Handbook of psychotherapy integration, Basic Books, New York.

Sperry, L 2003, Becoming an effective therapist, Alyn & Bacon, Boston.

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