Chronicles of a New Therapist: Seven Month Check-In + Last Month of Clinical Practicum!
Hello everyone! Hope your days have been filled with enough sunshine and not as much snow...at least over here in London, Ontario, Canada its been nothing but flash freezing, ice, and rain. Safe to say Mother Nature is going through her own psychological break and she could definitely be of use for some time in the therapy chair! But...the weather has just started to turn around this week so hopefully Spring is FINALLY upon us. All jokes aside, I wanted to pop back in and write a slightly delayed but much requested post about the last few weeks left in my clinical placement as a therapist and some exciting next steps in my world of mental health aid!
A couple months ago I wrote a blog post about my first month as a therapist (find it here: https://www.everydayself.ca/blog-1/chronicles-of-a-new-therapist-my-first-month) and shared some new insights I had acquired in my short time as a new therapist. I think it's pretty fun and interesting to read back on those moments, even though they were a short time ago, and reflect on the changes that have come since then. Most likely the biggest change since then would have to be the fact that I have completely finished my clinical hours (and then some!). Thats right...in six months I have managed to acquire over 250 direct client hours, and a total of over 520 hours of clinical work! It's so insane to think how fast time has gone by and how many lives I have had the unique opportunity of working with.
My practicum experience has had its fair shares of highs and lows. I think that is the nature of the experiential learning process and having to figure out your footing on your own. As someone who did not have any practical counselling experience prior to taking the program, I think I was able to navigate through the ebbs and flows quite well. However, I did take on too much too quickly and found myself in a pretty dark place early on in my practicum experience. I will be writing my next post on the topic of how professional burnout can affect personal life if you are interested so stay tuned! So for all aspiring therapists out there (and other professional workers as well), be aware of your mental state and take a step back before the pressure becomes too much. I was not as aware of this fact at the time and it led me down a pretty slippery slop, one that I am still navigating out of. Thus, its important to reach out your supports, lean on your self-care, and take some extra time each week to decompress and unwind. Your mind, body and soul will thank you.
In addition to skill-building, learning, and honing my knowledge in the world of psychology, counselling, and mental health in general, I have most importantly learned about the value of human experience. This aspect of life is so rarely seen and understood, yet when you have the opportunity to observe it, its truly remarkable. In life, we can go through some pretty awful moments, moments of which we just want to curl up in a ball, close our eyes, and whisk ourselves off to some dream world...or even a far-away beach with endless Rosé would be great too! But in reality, this does not take away the awfulness or make our experiences any less awful to go through. Instead, these experiences help us to grow, they challenge our preconceived notions and opinions, and they make us question what is truly important in life. In working as a therapist, I have been able to help people in understanding their human experience and learning how to truly live in that moment, learn to value what the experience has brought them, and teach them to grow from it with strength and endurance. No matter what the circumstance, we have the untapped potential within us to make a bad situation, good; a sad time, happy; and a rainy day, sunny. All it takes is for us to open our eyes, our arms, and our hearts and allow the universe to guide the way.
In addition to learning the value of the human experience, I have also continued to understand life through the trauma that others have experienced. As I mentioned in my previous blog post, "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." This has continued to be something I am very keen on advocating and recommending, not only to future therapists, but to everyone! Self-care is paramount in every aspect of life. Work responsibilities, family obligations, and the wear and tear of life can often get us feeling worn down, tired, and mentally drained. Thus, I strongly believe in the importance of seeking support, being active, and asking for help when you need it. Again, this is part of the human experience and something that we should not take shame in needing. We're all human and we all get tired, this is natural. The important thing is taking the first steps to ask for help and giving yourself so much needed clarity and time-out. For me, my weekly gym routine, setting up a comfortable work schedule, and having a much needed wine night every once in a while with some close friends has been instrumental in getting me through the past few months.
Lastly, my final takeaway in my seven months as a therapist is learning to give yourself a pat on the shoulder when it is deserved and also learn to ask for help when you need it (because we always do). Like I mentioned previously, you have to let the universe work its magic sometimes and when it does...it's a remarkable thing. Since learning to let go of control and letting life happen as it may, I have been granted many opportunities that will propel myself both professionally and philosophically. I was able to secure a great job at a hospital where I can continue to offer support to other individuals in a different capacity, while also continuing to see clients and help them grow. A lesson that I am once again learning through this experience is to keep in mind that burnout is a harsh reality of what I do. Working two demanding jobs can lead to an enormous amount of stress and pressure. Most times others cannot relate or understand what you are exactly going through or feeling in the given moment, but a simple reminder that you are there to support and help them is all that is needed. As a therapist I have learned that offering the right kind of support is a skill that needs to be learned, not necessarily inherited. Although we are quick to give advice and share our opinions, you have to bear in mind the person's state of mind, emotional capacity, and your boundaries as well. Pushing too hard can often push them away. So take your time, let go of harsh thoughts and negativity, and simply be present. At the end of the day, life is too short to let bad thoughts control your relationships and future outcomes. Reality is, we are not psychic and we cannot predict the future. We can only know what is in our heart and follow our desires. There is a lovely quote on my new office wall that reads..."A failure is not always a mistake, it may simply be the best one can do under the circumstances. The real mistake is to stop trying." - B.F. Skinner
I hope you have enjoyed the second read in my chronicle series! If you or someone you know is interested in counselling services or if you have questions regarding the benefits of counselling, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or book an appointment on in the "Counselling Services" tab (https://www.everydayself.ca/counselling-services). I would be happy to answer any questions or inquiries you may have!