The young-in-their-careers therapists I supervise often come to me with similar fears:
"I have anxiety about being a good therapist. How can I help others with their anxiety when I'm anxious?"
"I'm not a parent. What right do I have to advise parents?"
"I don't want to disappoint or hurt my clients. I'm afraid and I don't like being afraid. It might be easier if I get a job where I know I won't fail like folding shirts at the Gap."
Being a new therapist is overwhelming. We come into the profession to help people live better lives, and the thought that we could somehow cause more harm than good is devastating to us.
The truth is if you enter a career in counseling, helping people is most certainly more than what you do. It's who you are. Here are some tips I give my clinical supervision clients:
Focus on the Big Picture
If you look around, you will see that you help people all the time, and have been doing so your entire life, just not in the capacity of being an Official Therapist. List the times in the past weeks, months, or years when you have been of immense service or help to someone and notice the confidence these memories bring you.
Take the Pressure off
In the same way an oncologist doesn't need to experience cancer to know how to best treat it, we don't need to have the exact same experiences as our clients to be of service to them.
That doesn't mean that we won't develop specialties and areas of expertise over time. As you see more clients, you will learn who you work best with and eventually begin to focus working on those populations as much as possible.
However, it is not a requirement that your journey and your client's journey look exactly the same in order to help them. Fear, anxiety, loneliness, sadness, confusion frustration - these are all universal life experiences.
Adjust your Expectations of Yourself
Counseling is a skill that strengthens with time. Your schooling is really just the beginning of your journey. If your expectation is that you will never feel overwhelmed with a client, you are setting yourself up for disappointment.
Remember that our reactions and feelings to clients are valuable information (counter-transference in grad school speak). They give us a window into our client's emotional state. They allow us to know what it is like to be in a relationship with our client. They inform us about areas in our own personal lives where we may still need work.
Remember that the Therapeutic Relationship is a Reciprocal one
Our clients teach us as much as we teach them - if we are open to it. They take the form of the fears and obstacles we have overcome. Clients that challenge us are often a mirror for our own doubts. Your clinical supervision is there to help us identify the parts of ourselves that need healing.
There is no need to try to impress or convince them of your expertise. Use the energy of joining them on their journey, of meeting them where they're at. The pushing or fearful energy is what stops them and makes them not want to enter a therapeutic relationship with you.
Try to see these early years in your career with love and gratitude for the gifts they will offer you - gifts that unfold with each new client you see. Also have gratitude for the gifts that your specific life path have brought you thus far - a desire to live your truest, most aligned purpose - helping people live their truest, most aligned purpose, empathy and education to truly help your clients, connection with universal truths of human existence, and so much more!