Wait, I'm not an actual therapist! Or am I?! The new counselor dilemma
Are you a new counselor? Have you experienced the infamous new counselor dilemma? It goes a little something like this....
So... you've successfully graduated with your Master's degree in psychology, counseling, or social work and you get to tack on "MS," "MA," or "MSW" to your name - whoo hoo, nailed it! Time to pat yourself on the back, take a bow, and celebrate (...for like five minutes)! Soon after graduation, reality slowly (...or not so slowly) begins to sink in that your process to becoming a fully licensed clinician has just begun [insert dramatic sound effect here].
So, back to the grindstone... you study for your licensing exam, check-off the lovely jurisprudence exam from your to-do list, interview and secure a supervisor, apply for a provisional license which requires submitting a lot of paperwork to a licensing board who you are convinced is made up of a single person whose name is Janice and Janice likes to come in late and leave early because her work schedule revolves around her twenty cats' basic needs and watching old school daytime television shows like Matlock or Murder She Wrote that play on an obscure television channel that only Janice and her cats know about... (or was this last part just me?!)... anyway...
After no sooner than, say, three months (this may be hyperbolic for some, but not for most), you finally get a email or letter in the mail (or you obsessively check the online verification system multiple times an hour) and you find out you're now a provisionally licensed clinician. Yay! You now get to tack on "LPC-Intern," "LMFTA," or "LMSW" to your name (but don't forget to include your supervisor's name under your name - IN THE SAME FONT! Don't try to be a trickster and downplay that you're not fully licensed and that you are required to have a supervisor oversee your clinical work by putting your supervisor's name in smaller font under your name, which is in bold! Janice will find you and she will come and get you!).
Ahhh! Yes, you're now an LPC-Intern or LMFTA, or LMSW... time to sit back and relax, right? Right?! Well, it's in this time of being a new counselor that a lot of fun dilemmas surface, like:
- Feeling like you don’t know what you’re doing when it comes to being an actual therapist AKA having a serious case of "imposter syndrome." This looks like a lot of self-doubt, for example in a 22 second time period you think, "...wait, what is therapy again... wait, am I giving advice?! I'm not supposed to give advice!!! ...what theoretical approach to counseling feels genuine to me??? ... is that an open-ended question???? ...aghhh!!!"
- Feeling in disbelief that people will pay you for helping them. "...I can't believe someone pays me money to talk to them... this may be illegal."
- Feeling confused by and stressed out in regard to your licensing process. "...how do I properly document my supervised hours... what's considered indirect versus direct clinical hours? I think I've been using an outdated form this entire time because it was still on the licensing board website!!! Damn, you Jaaaaannnnnnniiiccceeeee!!!"
- Feeling overwhelmed coping with the emotional load of being a new counselor. "...wow, that client brought up a lot of my own shit. ...ugh, I'm exhausted from a tough day of sessions and now I have to go home and be emotionally present for my friends/family/roommate... I need a vacation!"
- Feeling burnout from all the hard work graduate school and the licensure process took, and now working crazy hours just to piecemeal clinical hours together so that you can become fully licensed ASAP. "...wait, what is self-care?!"
- Financially stressed because you're underpaid, yet have to pay for supervision in order to work in your field in which you're underpaid. "...well, I didn't get into this profession for the money. I'll just have Ramen noodles again for dinner."
- Feeling undersupported at the agency you're working at because of organizational struggles. "...I mean, the organizational leaders are really awesome therapists... they just don't really know how to run a business..."
Ready for the good news?!
You’re not alone! These are common feelings and experiences when just starting your journey as a new counselor. I've been there myself - yes, the feelings of uncertainty, stress, self-doubt, and confusion suck big time, but it does pass AND you will grow into a confident, seasoned counselor! What is important as a new counselor is that you get the support and validation you need along the way so that you can make the most out of these early years in your journey - fully allowing yourself to thrive as a new counselor rather than just scraping by.
In fact, it is this common new counselor experience that inspired my New Counselor Services at Thrive.
I created an entire group to support new counselors AND I also created an awesome workshop being held November 17th to help counseling graduate students or recent grads approach the daunting NCE and overwhelming process towards getting licensed as an LPC (rather than avoid it and get blindsided by it later) and to make the licensure process more manageable!
Please, if you're a new counselor... Reach out. Get support. Thrive.