So you want to be a Therapist!

So you want to be a Therapist!

 

All of the professional mental health therapists I’ve met and known over the years entered this line of work for various reasons, such as:

 

  • Having a positive experience with their own therapists
  • Having a traumatic experience in the past that prompts him/her to want to help others who have experienced similar traumas
  • Experiencing psycho-social stressors or relationship problems that motivated him/her to help others in similar situations

 

All of the reasons above are valid reasons to want to enter this profession.  However, it does take a lot more to be able to succeed and last in this field.  Over the years, I’ve been lucky to meet and work with some of the best therapists.  I’ve also met people who entered the therapy field and eventually decided to leave.  I’ve listed some points below of traits and skills I’ve seen in the most successful therapists:

 

  • Ability to set and stick to boundaries with clients:

Being a professional therapist can be one of the most rewarding and fulfilling experiences.  However, it’s important to be able to set appropriate limits and boundaries with clients, in order to maintain your sanity.   If you make yourself available to clients 24/7, allow clients to scream at you, or take advantage of your kindness, you’re setting yourself up for empathy burnout.  As a result, you’ll end up as a less effective therapist and/or choose to leave the profession.

 

  • Being patient with the therapeutic process:

We live in a “quick fix” world.  Some of us go to fast food restaurants to get our meals quickly because we have a full schedule.  Others take our cars to work because using our bike or taking a bus would take longer.  Unfortunately, the therapy process is not a quick fix to our problems.  Human beings, their relationships, and the world around them are extremely complex.  Furthermore, making real change is hard and takes time.  A good therapist knows this.

  • Being able to tolerate ambiguity:

In the early days of school, you learn 1+1=2.   Pretty simple, right?  At work, you have a specific and defined workflow for different projects.  However, therapy is never this simple.  If you’re someone who needs to have a definitive, black and white, answer to your client’s problems, you may struggle in this profession.  For example, I once had a peer who was working with a woman with an abusive husband.  My peer’s solution to this problem was, “Why can’t she just leave him?”  Well, if it were this simple, domestic violence would simply not exist.

 

Overall, the mental health profession is a special one.  I applaud those who are thinking about entering the field, as I have found this work very fulfilling and rewarding.  If you feel like you have traits and skills I listed above, you could make a great therapist!

 

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