The path of becoming a therapist is difficult. There is plenty along the way that will cut into your motivation, your hopefulness, even your identity. And we start with the difficulty because how you handle it may very well determine your direction and longevity in the field.
My story of burnout
I experienced the difficulty of becoming a therapist firsthand when I burned out last year. Heavy and unexpected relational and family circumstances, along with a growing and demanding caseload left me feeling depleted and overwhelmed. I hit my limit. I fantasized about being a librarian or janitor – anything where I didn’t have to face other people’s pain and expectations.
Thankfully, my supervisor was understanding and supportive. He allowed me to cut back to five clients a week, which gave me time and space to rest and restore. During that time, I learned just how limited and precious my energy was. I have limits. And when I blow past those limits it isn’t good for my clients, for me, and for those I love.
The trouble was, I hadn’t allowed myself to feel the full extent of how exhausted and empty I was. I was scared to feel it.
Part of my identity had been so wrapped up in me being there for people, helping them, setting aside my own needs and longings for their benefit that I felt I could not stop.
This is who I was, the one who could always be there for someone and somehow find a way to rest later. That’s how I operated in the world for so long and it was rapidly and starkly being revealed to me how that was not working anymore. I needed to learn this, but it was a hard lesson.
Through hardship, liberation
What I am finding now is liberation. I’m noticing how much my old way of operating was hindering me and leading to a whole host of draining feelings – self-doubt, shame, anxiousness to name a few. But as I am distancing myself from those old and burdensome expectations, I am noticing myself feeling lighter, freer, and more open to what my clients bring to me. I can slow things down mid-session and be ok with not charging ahead. I can check in with myself, take a breath, and remind myself that no matter the outcome, I will be ok. This makes me a better therapist. An open, curious, and grounded therapist.
Becoming a better therapist
This work is incredibly personal and eventually it will press into something tender and sensitive inside of you. That is ok. It doesn’t mean you aren’t cut out for the work. It just means you, like the rest of us, have some healing and growing to do.
As you begin your path of becoming a therapist, choose to be open to what your own tenderness and sensitivity is telling you. This is the way forward. The more you avoid your fears, your doubts, and your anxiousness, the more you will hinder your growth and potentially harm your clients.
But if you choose to listen, you will begin walking in the direction of liberation. And a liberated you is a present you, calm you, and open you – just the kind of person you might be looking for in your own therapist.
- Name one difficult emotion you feel when you imagine yourself seeing clients – how is it for you to feel this? Do you try to avoid it? Numb it? Run away from it?
- Try sitting with it for a moment, imagine it as a curious object you turn in the palm of your hand – what is the feeling telling you about yourself? How is it trying to help you?
- Reflect on a moment of transformation in your life – what did the progression of transformation look like for you? What were the feelings at each step of the way? How much did you know of how the transformation would take place?
- Imagine someone you feel comfortable sharing your vulnerability with. How would it be for you to let them in on the difficult feelings you might be having now? How would you want them to respond to you?
Join the Growth!
If you would like to grow with me as a therapist or aspiring therapist, consider joining my free newsletter.
Twice monthly I send out a growth theme, two journal questions, and curated link. You also get access to an exclusive 20% discount on test prep material for the national exam of any therapy license!
If you’d like to join, click the button below.