Whether the therapist is in recovery or not, their education is the same. Now, having said that, some people in recovery feel more comfortable with a therapist who “gets it” because they have been there, done that, but others feel very differently. You might say a defense lawyer does not have to be a criminal to be good at representing a criminal. Either way, like everything else, there are many moving parts that have clients having a preference one way or the other.
It is clearly more important to most clients to feel whether or not they like each other, whether or not they have confidence in the therapist, and whether or not that elusive quality of chemistry is present.
I have seen both in-recovery therapists and not in-recovery therapists work with the clients. All of them, without exception, have gone into this field because they want to help and are caring. It certainly is not because they think they will become wealthy doing this!
Each and every one that I have interacted with through the years is compassionate and dedicated to doing their very best for each and every person. I have known of several who buy food and bus passes for clients that are without funds, and I even know of one who paid the rent in a halfway house. In truth, I have witnessed more acts of compassion and the desire to help than I could possibly count. The number of clients who state they would want this field to be their chosen profession speaks highly about their experiences in treatment.
Many times, there are family members that go to visit and are introduced to all of us. They are hopeful and understandably scared at the same time. Our clients are oftentimes their children, and they feel hopeless and encouraged at the same time. Basically they do not really know how to feel. Some of them have been down this road several times, and while they cling to hope, it is understandable they are not convinced we can actually help.
Many times their children have had therapists that are and are not in recovery. I have not had one parent ever express a preference about that. Even the clients do not seem to have a preference. The main issue is if they feel a connection on some level with their therapist. There have been times when a client and a therapist are just not a good fit in either scenario, and then changes are made.
Because of my own hands-on observations and the comments I hear in staff meetings, it is apparent to me that whether or not your therapist is in recovery or not is simply a personal choice. There is no documentation that states one is better therapeutically than the other.