Can we talk for a second about navigating imposter syndrome in private practice?
Because if I’m completely honest, I feel like an imposter to some degree in nearly everything important that I do. And chances are, you’ve felt this way before too. So let’s address it.
Recently I had the privilege of sitting down with Joe Sanok of the Practice of the Practice to chat about my entire journey – from getting started in private practice all the way to the tools I’m using to run Private Practice Skills today.
If you haven’t had a chance to listen to it yet, go check it out: Dr. Marie Fang is Helping You Build Private Practice Skills.
Or you can give it a listen right here:
I had a blast chatting with Joe! Listening back to the conversation, a theme that stands out is just how much I did things wrong the first – and second – time I started private practice, and how much I often feel like a fraud. Can you relate?
Enter: Imposter Syndrome
What is Imposter Syndrome?
Imposter Syndrome is a bit of a sneaky beast. It’s that little (or big) voice inside of us that tells us that we’re a fraud and our accomplishments thus far were all some type of fluke. It can strike any of us at any time and it tries to thwart us from achieving our dreams.
But imposter syndrome isn’t all bad!
If we didn’t have that voice telling us that we don’t know what we’re doing, then we might overconfidently dive into our dreams without taking the necessary steps to ensure we’re properly prepared. It’s the part of us that makes us double-check our notes before a big exam or job interview. It’s the voice that motivates us to stay up to date on the latest empirically-supported therapeutic practices.
Imposter syndrome isn’t bad in and of itself. The issue arises if we don’t allow ourselves to try new things at all because we feel like a fraud.
Imposter Syndrome in Private Practice
When I started out in private practice, I genuinely 100 percent had absolutely no idea what I was doing.
This isn’t me trying to be modest. Before I started the process of launching into private practice, I’d literally been taught zilch about private practice throughout grad school and other training contexts. I bet many of you can relate.
But I didn’t let not knowing what I was doing stop me from diving in. I experimented with lots of strategies – most of which totally tanked. But then I learned from those mistakes and modified my strategies. In time, I did eventually start to get the hang of things.
My point is: if you’re feeling this sense of imposter syndrome as you launch your practice, this is totally normal! This doesn’t mean it isn’t for you, or that you’re a fraud. It’s okay to lean into the process while feeling like you don’t know what you’re doing.
Navigating Imposter Syndrome in Private Practice
If you can relate with experiencing imposter syndrome in private practice, here are a few tools to help you navigate it in a healthy way:
Get the tools you need
One huge benefit of imposter syndrome is it can really motivate us to learn new skills. I don’t know about you, but if I’m not feeling at least a little bit self-conscious about my lack of skills, then I really have trouble mustering up the motivation to fork out money for a class or to put my head down to study.
Let imposter syndrome be the kick in the pants you need to get started learning some new skills. If you need help knowing where to begin, you might start by checking out my free guide: Start a Private Practice in Counseling
I firmly believe that none of us are meant to go about this life alone. The same is true for launching a private practice. Surround yourself with people who can support you emotionally, clinically, and professionally in your business. I like to have my bases covered by accessing support through friends, family, local colleagues, consultation groups, and online networks.
The more support you have, the more validated you’ll feel about imposter syndrome (cuz’ guess what? We all deal with it!), and the better equipped you’ll be to navigate it.
If you’re not feeling sure of yourself, then the “go big or go home” strategy may not necessarily be the best fit for you. There are lots of ways to dip your toes into private practice without having to dive in all the way. You can test the waters in small ways until you feel ready to make a bigger leap.
If you’d like some information on how to start private practice without diving in full-time, you might find my video helpful: Startup Costs of Part-Time Private Practice.
Feeling like a fraud doesn’t mean you need to stop what you’re doing. You have full permission to keep going despite feeling unsure. My best tip for navigating imposter syndrome is to carry on with what you’re doing while allowing the feeling to be there. Think of it as exposure therapy for imposter syndrome.
Imposter syndrome is normal
Feeling confident about new endeavors is typically the exception rather than the norm. Successful people that I’ve spoken with have all felt imposter syndrome at some point in their journey. And for many of us – myself included – we tend to continue feeling it even after we have evidence that we’re successful.
Joe and I address this in the podcast episode. Here’s a little snippet of it:
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Wherever you’re at in your private practice journey, I hope you feel validated in any imposter syndrome you may be experiencing while feeling empowered to move forward with these tools. Until next time, from one therapist to another: I wish you well!