Becoming a Therapist? 6 Things New Therapists Need to Know
So, you’re in the process of becoming a therapist. That’s great news! Not only do you get to provide clients with the care they need to live their best lives, but you also get to learn something new every day. This is a job that also lends itself to flexible schedules, solid pay (particularly if you tap into a niche area of care), and plenty of opportunities for professional growth and development.
Add it all up, and there’s a lot to like about being a therapist for those called to the profession.
That said, becoming a therapist isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do. As beginner therapists find out all too soon, the job has its fair share of challenges.
If you’re a new therapist or someone who’s thinking about becoming one soon, here are six things you need to keep top of mind to ensure you’re able to enjoy a rewarding career for years to come.
1. Banish Imposter Syndrome — You Know a Lot!
It’s natural for all therapists, and new therapists in particular, to feel a bit of imposter syndrome from time to time. You might start to wonder if you are really qualified to help clients solve their mental health problems or guide them through an extraordinarily challenging situation.
This is a perfectly normal feeling. But it’s one you shouldn’t let get the best of you. If you’re feeling like an imposter as a beginner therapist, you might need to change the way you view yourself and how you ended up in your role.
To become a therapist, you’ve graduated from college and earned a master’s degree (which is something only 13 percent of Americans have done!). And you’ve also joined the thinned-out ranks of professional therapists, something even fewer people have done.
In other words, you’ve worked hard to get to turn your calling into a career, and you absolutely deserve to be in your chair. Don’t ever let yourself think otherwise.
2. Make the Most of Your Supervisor
New therapists quickly find out that this line of work isn’t like most others. Due to confidentiality concerns and the intimate settings you work in, therapists can have a harder time improving their skills because they don’t have managers directly overseeing their work.
This is where making the most out of clinical supervision enters the equation. By treating an experienced, veteran therapist as a mentor and discussing cases and strategies with them on a regular basis, you can continue to sharpen your skills and provide better care to your clients.
“Disclose your strengths and show you’re aware of your vulnerabilities, biases, and professional needs for improvement,” explains Sally Caldwell, a licensed professional counselor – supervisor (LPC-S) based in Fairbanks, Alaska. “Utilize your supervisor’s wisdom and learn the experience of trust and vulnerability that you are asking of your clients.”
3. Lean into the Learning Experience — About Yourself and Your Profession
As a therapist, you’re going to learn a ton about your clients every session. But your learnings don’t stop there. Every day, you’re also going to discover a lot about yourself and your profession, particularly when you make the most out of clinical supervision.
When you embrace a growth mindset and lean into the learning experience, you can gain more and more knowledge on a continuous basis. Not only will this make you a more effective therapist, but it will also help you learn more about yourself — which can have positive impacts on your personal life, too.
4. Take Care of Yourself
Some beginner therapists are so caught up in delivering exemplary care to their clients that they often forget about themselves. Yet self-care for therapists is one of the most important characteristics of effective therapy.
In other words, if you want to be a great therapist, you can’t neglect your own well-being. When you’re down and out emotionally, it is impossible for you to have the most productive sessions with your clients.
“Practice the wellness you teach,” Caldwell continues. “If you offer mindfulness, practice it regularly yourself. If you encourage physical exercise, you need to do it regularly. You’ll appreciate your clients’ challenges more personally as you find yourself facing them, if even to a comparatively minor degree.”
Don’t underestimate the powerful effects therapy can have on you. Personal therapy can help therapists alleviate stress, work through difficult ethical quandaries, and manage their own issues, among other things.
5. Communicate with Clients in a Timely Way
Beginner therapists are all focused on the same thing: delivering the best care possible to clients. Unfortunately, when you’re just starting out, you might not be able to truly appreciate the importance of responsive communication.
In order for your impact to be felt, you need to be attentive to client concerns and questions, responding to them as quickly as you can.
Step into your clients’ shoes. If you were really struggling with something and called the person who is supposed to help you through the issue — and that individual didn’t get back to you for several days — how would you feel?
As you settle into your new role, make sure you prioritize rapid communication. It’s an easy way to prove to your clients that you really care about their well-being.
6. Set Reasonable Expectations
When you’re just starting out, you might have your sights set on becoming the best therapist in the world. You’re going to be eager to help as many people as you can as quickly as you can. But you will be better off with a more cautious approach.
After all, the last thing you want is to burn out. If you’re not on top of your game, you’re not going to be able to be the best therapist you can be for your clients. It’s that simple.
Reaching your full potential as a therapist starts with setting reasonable expectations — and not biting off more than you can chew.
“Avoid playing the numbers game with your client load, and find the number of clients that you can comfortably manage,” Caldwell advises. “Avoid expecting that you will fit things into an unexpected cancel or no-show. If not, you’ll carry the rushing, the disjointed-squeezing-things-in with you into your session, and your clients will feel that.”
GoodTherapy is dedicated to partnering with therapists throughout their careers. Through our registry, continuing education, publication opportunities, blog articles written with folks exactly like you in mind, and more, we’re here for you.
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Here’s to a successful, rewarding career where you help clients become the best versions of themselves!
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