my clinical counseling interns and I were reviewing the chapter titled “The Hazards of Practice” in Carl Goldberg’s classic, “On Being A Psychotherapist” .? For new professionals the challenges of psychotherapeutic work is often overlooked by the anticipation of finally getting to work with clients.? The list below left the group more somber and reflective than usual.

Yet every coin has two sides and every one of your clients in the criminal justice system has the opportunity to create their lives in valued directions.? It also challenges you as a professional to recognize the limits of your abilities and embrace your humanity in that recognition.

  • Expose you to your own psychological issues and mental health vulnerabilities.
  • Compassion fatigue.
  • Vicarious trauma.
  • Feeling impotent in the face of deep suffering.
  • Routine confrontation and affronts to your moral or spiritual (or lack of spiritual) beliefs.
  • Erosion of confidence with repeated no-shows and unplanned terminations.
  • Risk of violence and boundary violations to yourself, family, and friends.
  • Those seriously mentally ill sometimes identify as a professional to deny their illness.
  • Becoming more invested in the client changing or getting better than the client themselves.
  • Unwitting use of clients to satisfy deep unmet needs that minimize feelings of worthlessness.
  • The weight of wearing the professional mantle of counselor, psychotherapist, healer.
  • The burden of holding secrets, exciting and positive as well as disturbing and frightening.
  • The demands that life be made painless and that success is measured by the absence of distress.
  • The pressure to serve as secular priest and social control agent for the majority society.
  • Regular demands to maintain competence and to continually expand the breadth of expertise.
  • Dissolution due to client?s inability to use the tools and experiences provide during treatment.
  • General defensiveness and reluctance of clients in examining their own role in their problems.
  • The lure of intimacy in treatment as compared to one?s own life.
  • Crises and emergencies with the risk of inevitable bad outcomes.
  • Dealing routinely with difficult, manipulative, or dangerous clients.