The dilemma of the wounded healer

Psychotherapy (Chic). 2012 Dec;49(4):482-91. doi: 10.1037/a0027824. Epub 2012 Sep 10.


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.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Health*
  • Empathy
  • Health Personnel / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Psychotherapy / ethics*
  • Resilience, Psychological
  • Self Disclosure
  • Stereotyping