Early Career Frustrations

After many years supervising and guiding early career Psychologists, I would like to offer this advice as you continue forward.

Take 2 minutes to let me share with you my reason for working with professionals like yourself.

Often during supervision consultations and training sessions, I hear comments such as “I wish I had your brain!” or “How did you know that! How did you work that out?!” or “How do you get that? Show me how you case conceptualize that?”.

At first I used to buy into the desperate need to ‘nail the therapeutic skill quickly’ and would find myself trying to respond to their questions with some useful version of my own internal processes as a therapist.

The personal benefit of this supervisee query was that it made me reflect mindfully about what my internal processes even were, processes which after many years of doing therapy had become so intuitive for me that I hadn’t recently examined them with such scrutiny.   

In itself this was an experience that I am grateful for, and one that I hope as therapists you will absorb yourself in frequently throughout your careers.

The drawback of this supervisee query was the personal energy expense of having to continuously come up with a metaphor, an analogy, a formula, or a protocol, to define my internal processes to make them useable.   This was tedious work. This was also not always effective because it’s very difficult to put an intuitive process into a tangible concept that others can then apply to their own work.

It was this struggle that raised this realisation for me – that it was important to impart this understanding to early career psychologists and therapists.

Your creation of yourself as the ‘healer’ that you’ve chosen to be is in itself a process.

It is not a skill to be learnt in a single lesson.

Clinical or therapeutic excellence is not a case of being delivered information to regurgitate in an assessment with clear and static parameters so you can get a high distinction as your University assessments were.

Receiving a chunk of information from a more experienced therapist, even an amazing therapist, about the internal process they use to get their therapeutic outcomes, will not mean that you can instantly possess the same excellence that they possess.

It is unlike university when getting the right journal article, piece of research, information about the assessment from your lecturer, meant that you could turn out the same high distinction that another student who also got that information could turn out.

This is now the time that you learn drip by drip by drip through the experiences you have and share with your clients.

Now you have to be patient, accepting that this is your continuous journey of experiences drip by drip by drip that will generate your own internal processes, developing your own therapeutic excellence.

So – I am not saying don’t ask the questions.   I am not saying don’t read and learn more.

What I am saying is to do those things and acquire more information but with an understanding that you will need to be extremely patient with yourself as you expend the time needed.  

Surrender to that frustration of urgency. Bring patience to your journey as your cumulative experiences consolidate the internal processes that will become your own fluent clinical skill and therapeutic intuition.

Understand and befriend that part of yourself that yearns with this urgency – the ego that must excel or compete, the unrelenting standards schema that simply cannot make error in session.  Comprehend your own ‘imposter syndrome’ and feelings of being a fraud when you don’t have the magic of ‘fixing’ the client.  Master self-compassion and acceptance to offset these.

You cannot, just because you learn information, become an effective therapist.

Experienced therapists will indulge in the opportunity to share their wisdoms and secrets with you – after all it is often the only time that we witness our own excellence and skill, and we also have ego’s and unrelenting standards schemas to soothe! 

Drink that in – but be balanced in your expectations of its power without combining it with your own rehearsals of excellence.

Hold all these wisdoms in mind as you share drip by drip by drip the experiences with your clients, with your colleagues, and with the people in your own personal life and your global world.   It is in this way that you will obtain the internal processes that you need to make your learnt information powerful and transferable.

Bring patience to your journey of experiential learning.

Savour the knowing drip by drip by drip.

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