The counsellor—a wounded healer

child having a plaster put on their knee by an adult

What would you think if you heard that your counsellor had gone through difficult experiences themselves? What if they’d struggled with depression, anxiety or an eating disorder? Would you be worried to off-load onto them, thinking they may not be able to cope?

The opposite may in fact be true. Having gone through painful experiences, we may use this to inform our counselling work. Here are a few ways that a counsellor who’s gone through difficult times themselves may have more skills in their tool box to help and support you through your struggles:

Empathy and Understanding

While a wounded healer won’t have been through exactly the same experiences, they may have been through similar experiences. Knowing what pain is like, first-hand means we have knowledge of the the emotional, psychological, and practical aspects of those challenges. This enables a deeper understanding and connection with out clients.

Having a shared experience can foster a sense of trust and mutual respect. When a client feels empathy this can lead to them feeling heard, this helps them open up and share their own story. A counsellor showing vulnerability and authenticity may enable a deeper more genuine connection with their client.

Modelling resilience

Seeing a counsellor who has overcome personal hardships can provide clients with hope. It shows that healing and growth are possible, even in the face of adversity.

Clients often come to counselling when things feel impossible. It’s not a case of “if I can do it, so can you” but it’s more about an underpinning knowledge that “this thing that feels impossible is possible”.

Scrabble tiles spelling HOPE in counselling


A wounded healer can validate clients’ emotions and experiences with a level of authenticity that comes from personal understanding. This validation can be particularly powerful for clients who have felt misunderstood or marginalised.

Many clients end up in counselling when they’ve felt invalidated previously so undoing this pain can be a long process. Counsellors who’ve been through their own pain are willing to put in the hours to walk alongside their clients when all else feel hopeless.

Normalisation of struggles

Many clients go to counselling with feelings of isolation, as though they’re the only ones feeling the way they do. It can feel incredibly lonely.

A counsellor who’s able to share a little of their story can normalise these experiences, reducing feelings of isolation. You are not alone.

female counsellor comforting overwhelmed female

Breaking down barriers

Sometimes it may feel as though there’s a hierarchy between the counsellor and client. A more therapeutic relationship can be built when there’s a more balanced relationship between counsellor and client. A counsellor who’s honest about their struggles may be more relatable and approachable showing there’s no stigma connected with going through personal struggles.

Professional boundaries

It’s important to note that while a wounded healer can bring unique strengths to the counselling relationship, they will also bring their training and an increased sense of self-aware. All counsellors who’re part of registered bodies will have gone through extensive training and personal therapy themselves in order to be practicing.

All counsellors who’re members of regulated bodies receive appropriate supervision and will seek counselling for their own personal needs, when necessary.

Personal experiences should not overshadow the client’s needs or therapeutic goals. The combination of personal experience and professional training can make a counsellor a robust and compassionate agent of change in their clients’ lives.

(Please beware of any organisation who believes personal experience is all that’s necessary in order to be qualified to support anyone in their mental health. It’s important to have specified training and be part of bodies with ethical frameworks etc. For more information please see here.)

If you think it would help to be counselled by a wounded healer, please use my contact page.

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