The theme for this week is “Feeling Lost”.
One of the most difficult stages of being an early therapist for me was right after I had first begun seeing clients. Much of the initial advice I received was about how to see that first client: just listen, be human, don’t worry about theory or interventions and just be present with the client. This is wonderful advice and deeper than how simple it might appear, but it still left me feeling lost and without direction when it came to moving beyond joining and building rapport to deeper clinical progress.
The more clients I was taking on, the less confident in myself I began to feel. Many of them had incredibly heavy stories and overwhelming lives. They were feeling lost, and I was right there with them. I would bring my theory book to the office and search the pages for anything that felt like it might stick.
It is so difficult being a new therapist, having little to no experience and being handed someone’s life – the most precious, vulnerable, and hurting pieces of someone’s life – and expected to “do something about it”. It’s overwhelming. It’s daunting. It’s a recipe for self-doubt and discouragement.
It’s also a very lonely thing. Yes, you have a supervisor there to help. And if you’re lucky, they are in tune with what you are feeling and supportive. But maybe that is not the case. It can also be difficult to receive support from friends and family because they don’t know the weight of sitting in that therapist chair. On top of that, you do not necessarily have a professional community yet that you can lean into. It can be a very isolated time.
So, first off, I want you to know that I feel that too. I’ve been there – in the overwhelm, the isolation, the discouragement, the lack of direction. In some ways I’m still in that, just a little bit ahead, though. I know how heavy and disorienting it is to be in this first year being a therapist. You’re not alone.
Second, it does get better. And some of it simply by seeing one more client, and then another, and then another. You start to internalize the fact that people keep coming back to you even if you are not sure why. They do not see the internal struggle you are having. They don’t know and don’t care about how deeply you know theory and how adept you are utilizing interventions. They just know you as a person and how you make them feel – seen, understood, taken seriously, cared for.
Third, there is a map going forward. You are not the first to go down this road. There are ways to develop both personally and professionally into a competent, confident, and calm therapist. There are practices and resources you can integrate into your daily life to add structure and assuredness that you are on a good path.
We’ll delve deeper into that last point later. For now, though, let’s take a second and reflect.
Come back to yourself for a moment now – take a deep breath, note where you are and what you are feeling.
Now consider these two questions.
Question #1: How prepared are you feeling about being a therapist? If more so, what has helped you feel this way? If not as much, what are your concerns and doubts?
Question #2: How do you feel about the path forward? Do you feel you have direction or are you feeling lost? What is it like to feel this way and still be seeing clients?
New Video Out!
I just started studying for the MFT national exam and I’m going to be doing a vlog along the way. Check out the first video below and subscribe if you want to follow along.
Here’s some comfort
I love the movie Soul and I love Cinema Therapy. Put them together and you get a lovely and profound reaction that is both moving and comforting.
Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash