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. Therapists starting out in therapy quickly learn that the job comes with 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 wonder if your abilities to help clients with their mental health issues or guide them through a very difficult 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 this..
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. Get the most out 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 you can make the most of Clinical supervision enters the equation. As a mentor, you can help your clients improve their care and continue to grow your skills.
“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.
If 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 new therapists get so involved in providing excellent care to clients that they forget about themselves. But self-care is an important aspect of any 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. Regular exercise is essential if you are to encourage people to exercise. 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 fashion
All therapists starting out are focused on one thing: providing the best possible care to clients. Unfortunately, when you’re just starting out, you might not be able to truly appreciate the importance of Reliable 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?
Rapid communication is a key component of your new job. It’s an easy way to prove to your clients that you really care about their well-being.
6. 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. You will be more successful if you are more cautious.
Burnout is not something you want. 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.”
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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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