in a therapist. The largest group of respondents ( 38. 5 percent)
reported that they use a cognitive/behavioral therapy (CBT)
approach, and 61 percent of those indicated they would
prefer to work with a CBT therapist. The second largest group
( 29. 4 percent) reported using a psychodynamic approach to
psychotherapy, and 88 percent of those said they would choose
to work with a psychodynamic therapist.
Several respondents ( 12 percent) indicated that they use
more than one therapeutic modality in their work, and 63
percent of those said they would seek a therapist who would
use a similarly eclectic approach. A small number ( 8. 3 percent)
endorsed a humanistic approach, 86 percent of whom would
also seek a humanistic therapist, and another group of similar
size indicated they use some other modality than those listed on
the survey (e.g., EMDR, biopsychosocial, integrative).
This participation rate of 86 percent is quite similar to the 84
percent rate reported in 2009 by D.S. Bike et al., who speculated
that the percentage of mental health professionals who seek
personal psychotherapy may be increasing — from just over
half in the 1970s to three-quarters in the 1990s and now to the
vast majority of mental health professionals.
We also know from past research that psychologists experience
positive outcomes from psychotherapy (Bike et al., 2009; Phillips,
2011). Similarly, in our study 84 percent of respondents rated
their satisfaction with psychotherapy as a 4 or 5 on a 5-point
scale. Psychotherapists in other studies also reported professional
gains from participating in psychotherapy (Bike et al., 2009) —
something we did not ask about in this study.
Our findings suggest that some barriers are more significant
than others, but none are overwhelmingly high. All of the
potential barriers we asked about received mean ratings below
the midpoint of 3, and issues of stigma were rated extremely
low on the scale, indicating stigma is not a substantial barrier
for most psychologists.
Still, 59 percent said there was a time when they may
have benefited from psychotherapy but did not seek it. This
compares with the 34 percent of respondents in the Deutsch
(1985) study who indicated they did not seek out psychotherapy
or other forms of treatment when needed.
Finding a psychotherapist
A general conclusion of our study — and one that deserves
follow-up attention — is that finding a psychotherapist may
be the most important obstacle to overcome when professional
psychologists perceive a need to seek personal psychotherapy. A
similar finding was noted in the Deutsch (1985) study.
Our study participants listed a variety of reasons that
finding a therapist was challenging for them, including the
youthfulness of available therapists, incompetence, distance,
dual relationships, lack of therapists of the same ethnicity and
disappointment with previous therapists. Some responses
indicated a surprising degree of self-sufficiency (“I feel like I
already have the answers and knowledge to treat myself”), while
others veered toward narcissism (“I would have a hard time
finding someone as good as me!”).
To address this problem, it seems that in this age of
technology, one or more professional organizations might
develop a directory or resource guide to help professional
psychologists find a nearby psychologist experienced in working
with psychologist patients. Such a directory could be a Web
resource or a smartphone application that could promote ease
of appointment setting, matching of therapeutic orientation
and demographic preferences.
Stigma is not a major problem
It was encouraging to note that personal and professional
stigma were identified as having the least impact on seeking
psychotherapy, a concern that has been raised in previous
literature (Barnett et al., 2007). Though the stigma of participating
in psychotherapy seems to still impact the general population to
some degree, it appears that, at least within the profession itself,
Promoting wellness and preventing professional
distress are important to the well-being of the
individual psychologist and for professional
psychology. Practitioners are encouraged to take
care of themselves so that they do not become
stressed or progress further along the continuum
to distress or impairment. Recognizing signs of
personal or collegial distress can be challenging.
Here are some resources to help from APA
Practice Central, at www.apapracticecentral.org/
• An action plan for self-care.
• Professional health and well-being for
• Occupational vulnerability for psychologists.
• Intervening with an impaired colleague.
• Tips from practitioners on finding work-life
• Not going it alone: peer consultation groups.
• Risk factors and self-care for practitioners
working with trauma clients.
• Alcohol and problem drinking.
• The pregnant therapist: caring for yourself
while working with clients.
• Retirement: making a successful transition.
• Tips for self-care.