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Over the past couple of decades, I’ve witnessed many leaders in the mental health field who are not willing to face their own fears and dependencies. Some of these people are full of unresolved pain, often stuck, and don’t move forward; others don’t even try. “Walking the talk” is most needed by the people who are in the business of helping others achieve sound mental health.

The healing professions — mental health and spiritual, must demonstrate the commitment and courage that they are asking of those they are helping. No one is perfect, we are all on a path, and we all make mistakes. I’ve done some doozies, but those bad choices motivated me to do more in-depth work on myself. It took a deep dive into psychoanalysis to better understand why I was acting against my own best self.

Therapist, Heal Thyself

I’ve worked with dozens of psychotherapists who are addicted. Some who had never received help, others who are in recovery, yet prefer to hold on to certain addictions — including eating disorders, gambling, love addiction, porn, sex-addiction, smoking, spending, etc. Only a very few have been willing to do the work to be addiction-free, and most never completed their treatment — or the terms of engagement. The excuses are the same as their patients provide: too little time or money. Yet, there always seems to be time or money for the addiction — or, whatever the priority du jour. When healing requires the extremely uncomfortable task of staying engaged, no matter what the price, it’s easier to leave or shop elsewhere.

God in a Bottle

I’ve also watched spiritual gurus who’ve exploited their followers for personal, sexual, and financial gains. Several years ago, I went to see John of God in Brazil. He was allegedly a Christ-like figure who was able to heal the sick through “psychic surgery.” Other than purchasing his “special healing herbs,” his services were offered for free. Hundreds of us — including small children with cancer — waited for hours in the sweltering heat while filing in one by one to meet the master and receive the “treatment.”

When I approached John of God, his eyes were rolled up in his head, while his associate translated his Portuguese recommendations for my treatment — to sit in a room and meditate for a couple of hours. We then were instructed to go to the pharmacy and buy his “special” herbs. While waiting in line for the herbs, I did the math; three bottles of herbs times ten dollars each, times one-thousand people. John of God was raking in $30,000.00 every day that he performed his miracles! When I got back to my lodging and told the rest of my group, I thought the whole operation was creepy and blatantly phony, I was shunned.

In December of 2018, John of God was arrested on his cattle ranch, and later convicted for assault and rape by numerous women who were given the “special treatment.”

God in the Bedroom

Though John of God represents the darkest of the dark, he is far from being alone. I have sat under the tutelage of numerous therapists or spiritually revered transformers who were unhealed. One young patient’s minister behaved seductively toward her while he was having an affair with her mother and several other congregants. Several women reported to me they were sexually exploited after attending an expensive seminar with thousands of attendants, hypnotized to “unleash” their sexual energy. Another patient sought therapy to cope with her sister being sexually exploited by a famous (philandering) self-help book author and spirituality expert. Another patient filed a lawsuit against a Yogi who was forced out of his ashram due to multiple allegations of sexual relations with his followers.

Do you think I’m judging these people? I’m not. We are all human. I simply want us to do a better job at healing ourselves before we take on the cloak of a savior. It’s a lifelong commitment.

People trying to heal themselves of earlier trauma should not find themselves reenacting that trauma with people whom they are trusting and vice-versa. Those of us in the helping profession have an obligation to be as healthy as possible. People who seek help are vulnerable, and so are we. We must protect ourselves and others from reenacting those childhood violations of trust.

Mistakes Are for Miracles

As I said, no one is perfect, and I’ve made my share of mistakes. Those mistakes are the signal that there’s more healing to do and that my spiritual path is not complete. Personal growth is a life-long commitment. The therapeutic relationship carries a responsibility to be engaged in healthy self-care, now and always.

How can we ever expect others to love themselves when we don’t love ourselves?

It’s not easy to do the work necessary to stay emotionally and spiritually fit, but it is an essential requirement if we are going to be of maximum service. Let us have the courage to remain teachable and heal-able so that we may be of benefit to those who need our help. We have a responsibility to be examples of what we are teaching and an inspiration to those who seek our guidance.


If you want to connect with Dr. Donna Marks, and find out about her tools and programs on how to Reclaim Your Power Over Addiction, visit her website

About the Author — Dr. Donna Marks is a licensed psychotherapist and an addictions counselor in Palm Beach, Florida. She has worked with over 6,000 clients. Donna’s struggle with addiction brought her to a worldwide search for healing. Eventually, she learned that rather than the root of every addiction was a lack of self-love. This realization completely turned her life around. In 1989, as part of her award-winning doctoral degree, Donna developed a chemical dependency training program at Palm Beach Community College, which has grown into a four-year degree. She is a certified Gestalt Therapist, Psychoanalyst, Hypnotist, and Sex Therapist. For 30 years, she has also taught A Course in Miracles.

Donna is the author of two books: LearnGrow, Forgive: A Path to Spiritual Success and the award-winning: Exit the Maze: One Addiction, One Cause, One Cure.

Donna is a public speaker and has shared her methods with hundreds of thousands of listeners on podcasts and radio shows. 561–436–9360

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