Are you considering applying to counseling-related grad programs or currently in the training phase while working toward becoming licensed as a therapist?
If you are, then I want to share some tips for beginning therapists that I wish I would have had when I was first starting out.
I’m a licensed psychologist working in private practice for the last 10 years. It was not an easy road to get where I am today and I love sharing tips for beginning therapists that I wish I had when I was starting out so you don’t have to learn the hard way like I did.
I didn’t know any of this advice when I was in that early phase of my career, and if I’d known this advice back then, then the entire process would have been far smoother and less anxiety-ridden.
So let’s hop into those tips.
Tips for Beginning Therapists
1) Take Your Time
- This is not a race!
- Don’t feel the need to rush through all the milestones in order to get to licensure or the career that you want.
- I know that this is easier said than done because there is often the need to start making an income sooner rather than later. But, take the time to self-reflect and notice if there are any areas where this hurrying isn’t totally necessary.
- If money is the issue, take some time to problem-solve. For example, is it possible to work part-time while you finish school part-time?
- Slowing down may give you the time you need to create space for family, friends, and other time commitments that mean a lot to you.
2) Have A Growth Mindset As A Beginning Therapist
- You don’t start as an expert!
- Some of the best therapists go their whole careers being open to learning more and cultivating a sense of curiosity.
- We are lifelong learners, and the learning curve is especially steep at the beginning.
- When you assume you have lots yet to learn, you are more likely to ask for help when you need it. This makes you more open to feedback when a supervisor or professor offers it to you.
3) Identify Your Values
- Ask yourself: What is the one way you hope to impact the world as a therapist?
- Beyond the broad category of helping others, what specifically do you want to do in the world with your therapy skills?
- Identifying this value can help you start to build a path toward where you want to end up.
4) Start To Identify Your Ideal Job
- You don’t need to know exactly what your job will be ten years in the future, but starting to assess what jobs fit with your giftings and personality type can be helpful.
- Get to know seasoned therapists in the field and the things they like/don’t like about their job.
- Specifically, I suggest you ask them to describe what a typical day in their life looks like. Because I’m willing to bet there will be aspects about the job you hadn’t anticipated before asking!
5) Build Towards Your Ideal Job
- “Paying your dues” is an extremely toxic culture in our field and it makes absolutely zero sense. Why would we have the folks with the least amount of training work with clients who have the highest needs for the least amount of pay? (and sometimes no pay at all??)
- If you already have a sense of what job you would be interested in, try to work backward. Get advice from current practicing therapists about what steps would be helpful to take to arrive at that position.
Seek Counsel As A Beginning Therapist
Certainly, there are all kinds of advice beyond this that is applicable as a beginning therapist.
I encourage you to seek out some of the more practical advice that’s more tailored to where you’re at individually by seeking support from mentors, supervisors, professors, and folks who are a little bit further along in the field. They can help guide you toward what your next practical steps should be.
Want More Tips For Starting Off?
If you are still contemplating if getting a psych grad degree is the right move for you, I have a video that explores my experience of grad school. It may help you make the choice that is best for you.
Or maybe you are already in the thick of grad school and want to begin taking steps toward working in private practice. I have a video that shares some ideas on how to prepare for working in private practice while still in grad school.
Until next time, from one therapist to another: I wish you well!