Welcome back, friend.
Today we’re going to talk about what to do When You Feel Like a Fraud.
Every therapist I have talked to has said at one point or another they have felt like a fraud.
I’ve felt this too.
During my very first session, my client poured his heart out to me about the deep and overwhelming grief he was feeling over the tragic and wrongful death of his young son.
I sat quietly and listened to his painful story. After he finished speaking, he let out a deep sigh and looked at me with an expression of so, what do I do?
My first instinct was to look over my shoulder at who he was silently asking for help.
And then it hit me.
I’m the one he’s asking for help.
My stomach dropped into acid. Here was someone who so clearly needed help and it felt clear to me that I was not qualified. I’ve never felt so out of my depth.
And with that abyss stretching between my client’s need and my perceived ability to help, I felt like a fraud positioning myself as any sort of help at all. Let alone professional help.
The problem was my assumptions
A funny thing happened, though, after that first session.
He came back.
And came back again.
I was shocked. Was someone paying him to see me? To make me feel better about myself?
No, it turns out there was something I had been offering him that he felt was worth spending his hard-earned money to continue seeing me.
So, what was it?
Well, maybe it would be better to start with what it wasn’t.
See, when I first started as a therapist, I began with some assumptions about what my clients would expect from me and what my role as a therapist needed to be. Some of these assumptions I was aware of. Others were lurking further under the surface. Here’s a few:
- Assumption 1: I need to fix all my client’s problems.
- Assumption 2: My clients expect me to have years of experience.
- Assumption 3: My role is to be the expert and have all the answers.
- Assumption 4: If I cannot consistently provide tangible and practical progress, I am not a good therapist nor worth anyone’s money.
If these assumptions were true, then yes, I am a massive fraud. I simply cannot deliver on any of these expectations.
But here is what I found: at the core, my client didn’t care about any of these.
Sure, at the surface I’m guessing he hoped I could help fix his problems, hoped I would have had some experience, hoped I might provide some answers.
But when it came down to it,
- He kept showing up because I kept showing up.
- He kept pouring out his anguished story because I kept holding it gently and compassionately.
- He kept doing his own arduous work because he knew I’d be right there with him.
He didn’t want answers. He just didn’t want to be alone in this anymore.
And that, in full confidence and professional integrity, I could promise to give.
You can too.
You’re not a fraud.
Well, that’s all for today.
Until next time,
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