When it came time for me to start seeing clients, I was filled with dread. What if I don’t know what to say? What if I accidentally do something unethical?? What if I cause psychological harm to my client???
Many new counselors struggle with imposter syndrome. The idea of holding a session can feel intimidating when we feel like we don’t really know what we’re doing. Truthfully, the fact that we experience this anxiety is a sign that we care enough to put in the effort required to be a good counselor!
Here are a few things that helped me when I started seeing clients:
- A Win and a Struggle – After each session, I would note down something that went well and something that didn’t go so well. A win could be anything from observing that you have improved your active listening to observing that a client has become more comfortable and vulnerable with you. A struggle could be anything from feeling disconnected from a client to feeling stuck on how to help them. The wins kept me excited about seeing the growth within my clients and myself. The struggles helped me to make my sessions more effective.
- Consistent Learning – There’s always more to learn. With the internet, we have access to information on any topic right at our fingertips. I’m a huge fan of listening to YouTube videos, TED talks, or podcasts as I do chores or get ready in the morning. For example, if a client is struggling with a particular issue that I don’t know much about, I’ll find a video on it so that I can be more prepared for my next session with them. And I can do it while brushing my teeth.
- Manage Your Expectations – Remember that you’re only at the beginning of your counseling career. It’s important to be realistic about what you can and can’t do at this time, both for your well-being and the well-being of your clients. You will mess up, and you will do it more than once. It’s to be expected, and it’s ok! You’re human, and each mistake is an opportunity to learn.
- Take Your Own Advice – You need support as well. This may look like having a self-care routine or seeking counseling for yourself. This also may include utilizing the same coping mechanisms you teach your clients. If you expect your clients to remember to take deep, slow breaths when they experience heightened emotions, then hold yourself to those same expectations. Make your well-being a priority so that you can show up for yourself and your clients.
It’s important to be compassionate with ourselves. On the hard days, we owe ourselves the same empathy we would extend to our clients. If we can create a safe space with ourselves, we’re also more equipped to create that space with our clients. And that’s therapy, baby!