As Mental Health Professionals, we can find ourselves doubting our skills and ability when working with our or venturing into new clinical roles. Additionally, we can find ourselves worrying that someone will figure out that we don’t know what we’re doing, and that we don’t deserve the role we are in. This is often called Imposter Syndrome for therapists. In this post, I highlight 4 ways you can overcome imposter syndrome as a mental health professional.
What is Imposter Syndrome for Therapists?
Working as a Mental Health Professional can be both a rewarding and stressful career. We work with individuals who are struggling with deep, dark issues and try to help them find a way to navigate their life in a healthier manner.
Imposter syndrome for therapists often occurs among students and new professional who are beginning their career, and more experienced professionals who are find themselves in new counseling roles and opportunities.
Common feelings among individuals who are experiencing Imposter Syndrome include:
- Lack of confidence
- Feeling inadequate
- Comparing yourself to your colleagues
- Doubting your skills and knowledge
- Having negative self-talk
- Focusing on challenges you have experienced clinically
- Not trusting others who provide positive feedback regarding your counseling skills
A key component that can help us overcome Imposter Syndrome for therapists is continuing to do our work, and becoming more comfortable in our knowledge and niche. By working with new clients, we are giving ourselves the opportunity to build our confidence in our work.
Why You May Be Struggling With Imposter Syndrome
There are a variety of reasons that we can struggle with imposter feelings. When we first begin our career, these feelings can come from our lack of clinical experience. While clinical internships can help us develop our skills, these experiences are quite different from working as a Counselor post-graduation.
As we progress through our career, we may feel similarly when we are in different or new situations. As an example, you may be asked to provide Clinical Supervision for a student or a new colleague in your clinic. If this is a new experience for you, you may find yourself questioning your ability to provide support and feedback to another Clinician. Another example would be if you were asked to facilitate a workshop on a skill that you are experienced in.
These examples demonstrate that we can experience imposter feelings at various stages throughout our career. If you find yourself struggling with mental health concerns such as anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem you may be at a higher risk of experiencing imposter feelings.
Research has shown that the prevalence of imposter syndrome has a significant range, of 9 to 82% of individuals. Studies have been inconsistent when it comes to narrowing down risk factors that can increase our chances of struggling with imposter thoughts
4 Ways to Overcome Imposter Syndrome for Therapists
If you feel as though you may be struggling with Imposter Syndrome, it is important to recognize that many of us doubt our clinical skills at one point or another. Even professionals who have been working as a counselor for decades can find themselves in a situation where they doubt themselves for a moment.
If you do find yourself struggling with any of the feelings mentioned earlier, it is important that you work to resolve these concerns. Continued struggle with things such as negative self-talk, and lack of confidence can act as contributing factors to therapist burnout.
Let’s take some time to talk about what you can do if you find yourself experiencing signs of Imposter Syndrome:
1) Figure out where these thoughts are coming from
Having self-awareness is one of the most important skills that we can have as a mental health professional. This allows us to recognize when we are being challenged and when we need to try something new.
If you find yourself doubting your abilities as a Clinician, try to discover where this doubt is stemming from. Have you found a case more challenging than others? Are you having a hard time accepting feedback from a colleague or supervisor? Or is something from your personal life impacting how you feel about yourself?
If you can trace the root of the concern, you will have a better idea of what you can do to move forward and correct it. If you recognize that these feelings are tied to a clinical challenge, you may want to consider seeking supervision or consulting with a colleague. Allowing another professional to listen to your concerns can help you find a new solution, or see the case in a different light than you were before.
If you find that your concern is stemming from concerns that you have in your personal life, you may want to show yourself kindness and compassion. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that we are human beings who feel an array of emotions, just like our clients do. As such, there are times in our lives when we will struggle, and that is okay! What matters is what we do to take care of ourselves.
Take a moment to think about your self-care. Not the last time you had a spa day, or went on a vacation, but the things you do daily that help you re-charge your batteries. Do you go for walks, drink herbal tea, journal, meditate, exercise, laugh, or cry? Taking care of our own emotional needs allows us to help our clients with their concerns.
2. Reflect on your clinical training and experience
When you find yourself doubting your skills, take a moment to do an inventory of your skills, training, and experience. For this step, think of your doubt as a cognitive distortion that you are struggling with. When we look at how cognitive distortions are handled in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, we challenge these thoughts and work to replace them with healthier thoughts.
Let’s walk through an example. You recently started a new job at a private practice and were asked if you would be willing to provide supervision to a student who interns at the practice. You have no experience providing supervision, and immediately find yourself worrying about being able to support and help a supervisee.
If we take a step back to try and see where this concern is stemming from, we can recognize that this is a new position and a new role for you as a counselor. One change can be challenging enough, let alone two. You recognize that your concern is more so related to the new role as a supervisor, compared to your new position.
You have 7 years of clinical experience post licensure in a variety of settings, with patients who were struggling with a variety of mental health concerns. You have been active in enrolling in CEU courses, and are trained in one treatment modality that you use with your clients.
Based off the information provided, you can see that you have the skills and experience needed to provide supervision to an intern in your practice. In this scenario, it appears that your concern is stemming from this being a new role, so you may find that seeking supervision for yourself may be helpful. Additionally, once you begin providing supervision, you may find your concerns beginning to decrease.
3. Be mindful of your limitations
If you have gone through the first two steps, and are still doubting yourself, then you may want to consider that your self-doubt is actually your awareness of your limitations. As counselors, our gut is one of our best resources. We have a way of knowing when things don’t feel right that others may not understand.
Being aware of your limitations is different than struggling with Imposter Syndrome. We can’t be competent and experienced in all therapies and interventions. Most of us have our niche that we are comfortable and experienced in. If you found a limitation, you can view this as an opportunity to learn a new skill or approach.
If you are working with a client and begin to recognize that they would benefit from being exposed to a treatment approach that you are not trained in, then you should look into providing a referral for a clinician who could provide the appropriate treatment.
4. Seek supervision
Supervision is often required for students and new professionals. Supervision is a helpful tool and should be encouraged throughout your professional career. Supervision can help us recognize our limits and hear a different perspective that can help us in our clinical work.
If you find yourself struggling with symptoms of Imposter Syndrome, you may benefit from talking through these concerns with a supervisor. Oftentimes, supervision can be a safe place for us to talk through our thoughts and get some feedback on what is challenging us. You can choose to engage in supervision bi weekly, or as needed.
Final Thoughts on Overcoming Imposter Syndrome as a Therapist
Thanks for reading my post on “4 Ways to Overcome Imposter Syndrome as a Therapist.” I hope that this resource has been helpful to you as a mental health professional as your continue to gain confidence. You’re in this career for a reason, it’s time to step into your position with confidence!
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