The Wounded Healer

The term ‘the wounded healer’ dates to Plato in ancient Greek medicine and has flourished across cultures having roots in early shamanistic communities. The Greek word “wound” translates to what we think of as trauma. ‘Healer’ refers to anyone who treats or somehow helps another emotionally, mentally, physically, or spiritually. Healers in modern society look like teachers, nurses, counselors, therapists, caregivers, etc.

Wounded healers are healers who have suffered, then managed, their own deep wounds and are often most effective at supporting others.

According to trauma expert Dr. Omar Reda (2022), being a wounded healer is seen as both a vulnerability and a strength. In transforming our own pain, whether that be from our own early, personal traumatic experiences or shared traumatic experiences during a pandemic, we are uniquely positioned to help others heal. In fact, according to Dr. Reda’s research, healers who have suffered, then managed, their own deep wounds often are most effective at supporting others, compared to those with less challenging life experiences.

Wounded healers are gifts to the helping professions because they have endured traumatic, yet valuable life experiences, increasing their capacity for understanding, empathy, self-care, and resiliency. As acknowledged empathetic Wounded Healers, we are tasked with helping others with their emotional health while at the same time addressing our own needs.

How is Pandemic Stress Different from Routine Occupational Stress?

In 2022, research findings show that the risk of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) among workers remains alarmingly high compared to before the pandemic. Experts conducting the study caution that PTSD makes people more emotionally volatile and increasingly susceptible to stress, anxiety, depression, and addiction. It will take little to impact employee’s mental state and the post pandemic effects could linger within individuals to varying degrees and for over a period of years. This includes those in the helping professions, who are vulnerable to feeling overwhelmed by witnessing the suffering of others (Watson, 2022).

Emotional stress from witnessing the suffering of others, also known as secondary loss experience, or more aptly, secondary trauma, is also called ‘compassion fatigue.’ Compassion fatigue is now studied as its own syndrome. Those in a helping profession can not only suffer from compassion fatigue but can also feel a magnetic pull to help others, causing them to prioritize their patients and abandon their own self-care.

The above excerpt is from Healing the Healer, a one-hour online continuing education (CE) course that seeks to cultivate the emotional well-being of healthcare professionals who have been on the front lines supporting others. Click here to learn more.

Professional Development Resources is approved by the American Psychological Association (APA) to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. Professional Development Resources maintains responsibility for this program and its content. Professional Development Resources is also approved by the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC ACEP #5590); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB Provider #1046, ACE Program); the Continuing Education Board of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA Provider #AAUM); the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA Provider #3159); the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR Provider #PR001); the Alabama State Board of Occupational Therapy; the Arizona Board of Occupational Therapy Examiners; the Florida Boards of Social Work, Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy, Psychology and Office of School Psychology, Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, Dietetics and Nutrition, and Occupational Therapy Practice; the Georgia State Board of Occupational Therapy; the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners – Occupational Therapy; the Mississippi MSDoH Bureau of Professional Licensure – Occupational Therapy; the New York State Education Department’s State Board for Psychology as an approved provider of continuing education for licensed psychologists (#PSY-0145), State Board for Mental Health Practitioners as an approved provider of continuing education for licensed mental health counselors (#MHC-0135) and marriage and family therapists (#MFT-0100), and the State Board for Social Workers an approved provider of continuing education for licensed social workers (#SW-0664); the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker and MFT Board (#RCST100501) and Speech and Hearing Professionals Board; the South Carolina Board of Examiners for Licensure of Professional Counselors and Therapists (#193), Examiners in Psychology, Social Worker Examiners, Occupational Therapy, and Examiners in Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology; the Tennessee Board of Occupational Therapy; the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage and Family Therapists (#114) and State Board of Social Worker Examiners (#5678); the West Virginia Board of Social Work; the Wyoming Board of Psychology; and is CE Broker compliant  (#50-1635 – all courses are reported within a few days of completion).

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