Impaired Therapists

Impaired Therapists

Curt and Katie talk about therapists who become impaired – by substance abuse, cognitive decline, their own mental health concerns, burnout, etc. The challenges of addressing impaired therapists given the ethics codes, the lack of effective means to make complaints, and the difficulty in finding effective solutions.

It’s time to reimagine therapy and what it means to be a therapist. To support you as a whole person and a therapist, your hosts, Curt Widhalm and Katie Vernoy talk about how to approach the role of therapist in the modern age.

In this episode we talk about:

  • The definition of Impaired Therapist
  • The lack of recent research on the topic
  • The types of impairment: substance abuse, cognitive decline, mental health concerns, burnout
  • Why and how therapists can become impaired
  • Looking at how therapists are more likely to have these impairments
  • The responsibilities and challenges of observing impairment of others (especially depending on the role, supervisor, supervisee, colleague)
  • The ethical responsibility to pay attention to your own potential impairment
  • The challenge of making a complaint related to an impaired therapist
  • Looking at the ethics code, with the responsibility to approach impaired colleague first
  • How the interaction in the Facebook groups is not necessarily taking care of this responsibility well.
  • The harm of shaming therapists – and the importance of supporting each other
  • The impact of the power differential on having these difficult conversations
  • The negative impacts on clients and treatment team members from impaired therapists
  • What is the difference between impaired therapists and bad therapy?
  • The importance of the response and introspection related to impairment
  • What we’re supposed to do when we identify an impaired colleague, supervisor, or supervisee
  • Who are the gatekeepers? Why is it important?
  • A strange foray into the thoughts on vigilante therapists and the #cardigancartel

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Resources mentioned:

We’ve pulled together resources mentioned in this episode and put together some handy-dandy links.

Psychology Today: Why Shrinks Have Problems

APA Article – Self-care and intervening with impairment

Ethics of Burnout

APA: Ethics related to an impaired colleague

Very Bad Therapy Podcast

Relevant Episodes:

When Clients Die

That’s Unethical

Haters and Trolls

Connect with us!

Our Facebook Group – The Modern Therapists Group

Our consultation services:

The Fifty-Minute Hour

Who we are:

Curt Widhalm is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in private practice in the Los Angeles area. He is a Board Member at Large for the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, a Subject Matter Expert for the California Board of Behavioral Sciences, Adjunct Faculty at Pepperdine University, and a loving husband and father. He is 1/2 great person, 1/2 provocateur, and 1/2 geek, in that order. He dabbles in the dark art of making “dad jokes” and usually has a half-empty cup of coffee somewhere nearby. Learn more at:

Katie Vernoy is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, coach, and consultant. As a helping professional for two decades, she’s navigated the ups and downs of our unique line of work. She’s run her own solo therapy practice, designed innovative clinical programs, built and managed large, thriving teams of service providers, and consulted hundreds of helping professionals on how to build meaningful AND sustainable practices. In her spare time, Katie is secretly siphoning off Curt’s youthful energy, so that she can take over the world. Learn more at:

A Quick Note:

Our opinions are our own. We are only speaking for ourselves – except when we speak for each other, or over each other. We’re working on it.

Our guests are also only speaking for themselves and have their own opinions. We aren’t trying to take their voice, and no one speaks for us either. Mostly because they don’t want to, but hey.

Stay in Touch:

Our Facebook Group – The Modern Therapist’s Group


Voice Over by DW McCann

Music by Crystal Grooms Mangano

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