Iatrogenic Effect: A negative consequence brought forth by the healer.

I have long known that iatrogenic issues are present in the mental health field. I am regularly surprised at the courage of people to continue to try and find help through therapy despite some of the very damaging and/or traumatising experiences they’ve had.

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

While the concept of the iatrogenic effect is well known to medicine, it doesn’t receive much attention in the context of counseling. However and if we accept the counselor as a form of healer, emotional, psychological or psychiatric, then it does us well to ponder this concept as applied to counseling.

Counseling tends to be treated at best, something to help overcome emotional, personal or interpersonal problems. At worst, counseling appears to be viewed as innocuous; if not helpful, at least not harmful.

Rarely discussed though are those unintentional consequences, the negative outcomes of well-intended acts. Like any intervention, counseling too has its potential iatrogenic effects even while at some level being helpful.

As much as we rail against the stigma of mental illness and mental health services, it remains such that a stigma exists. As much as a person may be appropriately served and aided by mental health services…

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