The dilemma of the wounded healer.

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The wounded healer is an archetype that suggests that a healer's own wounds can carry curative power for clients. This article reviews past research regarding the construct of the wounded healer. The unique benefits that a psychotherapist's personal struggles might have on work with clients are explored, as well as the potential vulnerability of some wounded healers with respect to stability of recovery, difficulty managing countertransference, compassion fatigue, and/or professional impairment. The review also explores psychologists' perceptions of and responses to wounded healers and examines factors relating to social stigma and self-stigma that may influence wounded healers' comfort in disclosing their wounds. We propose that the relative absence of dialogue in the field regarding wounded healers encourages secrecy and shame among the wounded, thereby preventing access to support and guidance and discouraging timely intervention when needed. We explore the complexities of navigating disclosure of wounds, given the atmosphere of silence and stigma. We suggest that the mental health field move toward an approach of greater openness and support regarding the wounded healer, and provide recommendations for cultivating the safety necessary to promote resilience and posttraumatic growth.





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Zerubavel, Noga, and Margaret O'Dougherty Wright (2012). The dilemma of the wounded healer. Psychotherapy (Chic), 49(4). pp. 482–491. 10.1037/a0027824 Retrieved from

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Noga Zerubavel

Assistant Consulting Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Noga Zerubavel, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist and Assistant Consulting Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University Medical Center, where she is involved in clinical education and research. She is involved in Trauma-informed Teaching and Learning in Education research project, supervises in Duke Family Studies, and participates in teaching for the clinical psychology predoctoral internship program. She is the former director of the Stress, Trauma, and Recovery Treatment (START) Clinic at Duke, where she led a trauma consultation team and supervised psychiatry residents and clinical psychology interns and fellows in trauma-informed psychotherapy. Dr. Zerubavel specializes in treatment of trauma survivors using empirically supported treatments, with an emphasis on contemporary CBTs and mindfulness-based psychotherapy. She also has expertise in addressing burnout and secondary traumatic stress, and individual and organizational practices for enhancing wellness and resilience. Dr. Zerubavel is active in providing trainings for mental health providers, social service administrators, and physicians and other health care providers.

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