The below was a comment I made in a linkedin.com conversation a good while back. I saved it and was going to perhaps add to it, but today I’m just posting it as is with a wee bit of editing…as a bit of a musing.
I think idealization of the therapist is something everybody involved (clients, clinicians and society) participate in…and therapists…quite often enjoy the illusion and can even feed on it…yes.
Conscious awareness is vitally important and given the inherent power dynamic it remains the therapists job to help the client understand that they, the therapist, are, indeed, not imbued with special powers. this too helps the client with reality checking and a good sense of their own power vis a vis that of the therapist.
Pedestals and hierarchies are not good for anyone involved…and can certainly be the vehicle of further traumatization for those who already have histories of trauma.
Of course the other side of idealization of the therapist is the lack of belief in the client (or if the client is doing it, lack of belief in oneself)
also the “dehumanization” of the client versus the therapist would be something like this:
dehumanization in the therapist in the direction of making them superhuman.
dehumanization in the client in the direction of making them subhuman.
In this way the gap becomes larger and larger the more these issues are not made conscious.
When I was working in the field and I would answer the question “what do you do” at parties etc with “I am a social worker” people would respond with various different versions of “Oh, my how deeply noble you are.”
Honestly this was the normal response. It’s the refection I got back from virtually everyone I told what I did for a living. Well, I’m not noble…and I wasn’t then either, but it sure appealed to my ego to hear it all the time. So all of society, too casts this reflection onto professional helpers of this kind. It’s like a huge giant transference machine of sorts…that all of society reflects…it’s a society wide delusion, really.
**there is now a page with a collection of posts on: About having been both a mental health professional and a psych patient — which more deeply explores the gap that must be closed between “clients/patients/consumers” and professionals