Qualifying as a therapist with poor mental health is impossible.

Myth 1 - You can't become a therapist or psychologist if you have suffered from poor mental health.

This topic is one I came across quite early on in my studies that caused me genuine concern. Can I be totally honest with you? I don't quite trust anybody not just therapists who haven't experienced a mental illness. Think about it...

Have you ever had a conversation with somebody who has never suffered with a mental illness about mental health? How did that conversation go? For me personally it was full of judgement and preconceived notions that we were all suicidal 24/7 and couldn't be trusted. And we certainly couldn’t offer help to anybody else. Through no fault of their own, society definitely has an impact but regardless they just "didn't get it".

I think that people who have gone through their own struggles, their own mental health problems make the best counsellors and psychologists.

Now, honestly, my personal opinion as a student / trainee psychotherapist is - it makes us better care providers. Our experiences are going to make us more empathetic, more understanding, and are going to beef up our awareness of the difference a really good (or really bad) therapist can make. Also, mentally ill people already know we are mentally ill. We’ve had to figure out what we need, what makes us tick, how to care for ourselves, how to set necessary boundaries and do essential self-care. And we've had to do that, very often, in a life-or-death situation. When you have had to care for yourself, to save your own life, it's not too much of a stretch to care for yourself, to help save someone else’s. Mentally ill therapists know deeply what is at stake in our work.

Also If this is your passion and you have the motivation to help other people then you shouldn't question that. If you have depression or anxiety, low self-esteem then you have personal experience to work from.

One thing I learned on my first day during introductions was most of us have experienced trauma. Most of us have at least one severe and persistent mental illness diagnosis. Most of us take meds, and see therapists of our own on a regular basis. Many of us have needed inpatient care, have struggled with self-harm or suicidal thoughts or addiction, or all of the above. We've had shitty relationships. We've had scary relationships. So, you know, we get it. And while they don't hear the details about why we get it — clients see and feel the difference.

If you're a student studying counselling and (or) psychology & questioning this…

So, here is what you do: keep prioritising your mental health. Remember Mental illness is not a barrier to mental health training or qualifying. Stay on any meds, keep or develop good relationships with your own therapist who you trust, double up your own self-care and self-awareness in every way you know how, and keep learning new ones. Build up a strong, solid support system for yourself, especially as you transition into university. Study whatever you want to, Study something that is exciting, and engaging, and that feeds and sustains you - I am not sure exactly which route I will take but I have no zero pressure on myself as I know it will all become clear in the next 2 or 3 years of study.

Don't be discouraged because you feel like you won't be able to help people because you haven't been able to help yourself.

From doing a little research the only way your mental health is even likely to come up relative to qualifying is if you experience a significantly interruptive event, or new diagnosis, it doesn't mean you can't or won't qualify it just means it's going to take longer as your personal health is put first.

If you want to be a therapist, please be a therapist. The field — and your eventual clients need you!

stay tuned for myth & misconception #2