I was visiting an internet forum this morning (what are we supposed to call those now? There are forums, boards, sites, subReddits, groups, lists... just use what you want) and someone asked about tips for new therapists. Even though this blog is aimed at people who GO to therapists, for the most part, I thought you all might get some insight out of what I wrote. If not, then go me for being lazy enough to cut and paste a forum reply and call it new content!
I work with early-career therapists, and I've found over the years that a lot of advice I give them is pretty simple stuff - the same things I try to remember when I work with clients. Here are some of the things I keep repeating:
Slow down and listen. Seriously. Let your client pause and feel without lobbing an intervention in there. Just shut up sometimes.
ALWAYS ask yourself if what you're doing is about you, or about your client. Are you saying something so your client will like you? That's not bad in and of itself, if it's for the client and has to do with relationship-building and gaining trust and openness. If it's so they'll simply like you, shut up and listen. :)
You're doing more than you think you are, simply by listening without judgment. That doesn't mean you don't have work to do, but don't do work simply to do work.
The beauty is in the work. Your journey with your client is what it's all about. You might end up somewhere, but there's a good chance it won't be where you thought you were going.
Clients learn when you don't think they are learning. They feel when you don't think they're feeling. A year later, they'll tell you that something you said changed their life, and you won't even remember saying it. You'll be too busy remembering that amazing intervention you came up with that you were SURE was going to change everything.
You're better than you think you are. Your client is more resilient than you think she or he is. The world is a more complicated place than either of you can fathom, and your job is to simply exist in that moment with your client and do what you can. Be genuine, and keep that in mind.
Therapists aren't perfect. They're humans with some knowledge and skills that others can use. Go easy on yourself.
Boundaries are everything. If you find yourself doing something for your client that you wouldn't do with another client, think seriously about what that is about. Always remember to think about whether your actions are for you, or for your client.
Approach everything with love. Everything.
That's it. Now you're a therapist! Well... almost.