Chronicles of a New Therapist: My First Month!
Hello again everyone! I hope you have been well. Sorry for my leave of absence for a while, it seems as though managing a part-time job, full-time clinical internship hours, and full-time school responsibilities has become all encompassing of my time over the past few months! However, I wanted to take some time to begin chronicling my experiences as a first time therapist and share what my experiences have been like with all of you.
Since my interest in psychology peaked in my undergraduate studies, I quickly realized how many people would criticize or speculate about the practicality and utility of therapeutic services in order to heal from a tragic event, cope with the loss of a family member or friend, or learn to love themselves again. With that speculation in mind, I did not expect to have the sheer amount of client interest in my services when I began advertising at the beginning of September. The overwhelming amount of interest in receiving counselling services for a variety of needs was incredible and really showed me how much need there was, even in a city the size of London, Ontario, Canada. I began booking clients immediately and found myself engrossed in the stories of peoples lives and the tragedies they endured. Each week, my client case load would increase from 10 clients, 20 clients, to now having a load of 30 client cases, with still increasing need and interest. However, I have quickly learned my limits as a new therapist and how rapidly you can become emotionally drained and physically burnt out along the way.
Since beginning my counselling services in September, I have spent over 70 hours directly with clients; listening to their stories, being their shoulder to cry on, and supporting them as they learn a little bit more about themselves. I have felt their pain, relived their traumas, and helped guide them through the journey they have recently begun. In the first session with a client, I often think: "How scary must it feel to be totally open about a rather difficult experience, with a complete stranger? How much trust are they putting in me and my ability to guide them through? How lucky I am to see someone grow past the hurt they endured." Although everyday is filled with its own set of challenges, I am grateful that individuals are able to put their trust and confidence in me and my abilities.
During the past month, I can reflect and think about how much I have also grown, both in my skills and my ability to recognize things about myself. Not only have I been able to finally begin utilizing the skills I have learned in my 5 years of university-level schooling, but I have also begun to learn more about myself as an individual. I have learned how to be more of an empathetic listener, how to give someone the support they need (even though I could probably use some support too), how to give hope, and how to highlight new ideas. But I have also seen the darker side of how counselling can affect you as a clinician, and let me tell you...it's an easy pit to fall into. You see, at the first session, you don't know the person who is walking into your door or what stories you'll be told. You can't necessarily prepare yourself for the act of reliving someone's trauma in such a profound way. You also can't expect to understand how it's going to affect you once they leave. Thus, it's important to have a support network to rely on, a self-care plan in place, and most of all, safety in your sense of self and sense of belonging in the world you inhabit. So...to be totally honest and real, I've had to take some time to evaluate my personal mental state, I have had some down times, and I have completely experienced the emotional drain and exhaustion of being a clinician. But if you're wondering if its worth it, my answer will always be, yes.
So if you're reading this and you've never gone to therapy but think it might be helpful, consider the following three questions:
1. Am I struggling to get past a relatively difficult time in my life and could benefit from some outside perspective and support?
2. Do I want to become a better husband/wife/mother/father/sister/brother/daughter/son/friend/boyfriend/girlfriend?
3. What do I have to lose?
I challenge you to consider this thought as well: therapists are human too and we're not using crazy, irrational, obtuse, or upside down techniques to get you to miraculously challenge everything you know and suddenly become "healed". Rather, the healing comes from within YOU, the acceptance of the past comes from within YOU, and the self-discovery comes from (you guessed it), YOU! As therapists, we simply lead the way, like holding a flashlight on a dimly lit path and guiding you to places within yourself that are untouched. It's sometimes a scary and hard journey to go on, but I believe entirely that it is worth it.
I hope you have enjoyed the first read in my chronicle series! If you or someone you know is interested in free counselling services or if you have questions regarding the benefits of counselling, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would be happy to answer any questions or inquiries you may have at this time.