The wounded healer: lived experiences of self-identified wounded counselors
Streeter, Ashley Marie
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The field of counseling continues to lack knowledge and understanding of wounded counselors despite the reality that many of those individuals who enter the field have or will encounter wounds. In light of the American Counseling Association’s code of ethics, specifically the code regarding counselors’ responsibility to prevent harm to clients, this lack is a source of concern as it propagates the potential for both clients and counselors to encounter harm due to ineffective or unintentional use of wounds in the counseling process. This dissertation involved a qualitative study intended to explore the lived experience of counselors who self-identify as wounded healers. Participants were counselors who self-identified as wounded healers, were over 18, possessed their Licensed Professional Counselor or Licensed Professional Counselor – Intern license, and were currently practicing as counselors. In this study, I implemented a hermeneutic phenomenological design. Analysis revealed a large number of themes and subthemes, including: (a) with the client, we enter and exist in their experience; (b) we are open about our wounds; (c) wounds are…; (d) from the myth of the perfect counselor to embracing the reality of the wounded counselor; (e) we provide and receive support related to our wounds; (f) we experience similarities between our wounding experiences and clients wounding experiences; (g) our work with wounds gives us experiential knowledge that transforms into insight and intuition; (h) our clinical work illuminates the extent to which we are healed; (i) our wounds move us toward and away from clinical work and clients who have particular wounds; (j) we avoid using our wounds to make assumptions about clients’ wounds; (k) our healing process is intentional and continuous; (l) our work with clients is both parallel and reciprocal; (m) our wounding experiences are with us in our work; (n) the pain of being a wounded counselor; and (o) we serve as models for healing. In the final chapter, I discuss the relationship between my findings and the literature, as well as pertinent implications for counseling and recommendations for future research.