Becoming a Trauma Therapist – The Beginner’s Mindset

This week I bring you my recent podcast interview with the one and only Guy MacPherson from The Trauma Therapist podcast! I am a massive fan of his podcast, and I know many of you are as well, so this episode is inspiring for me to share with all of you. This discussion reveals what it is like to be fresh out of graduate school as a new therapist, working with highly complex mental health issues within the child welfare system, and coping with my feelings of inadequacy.

Guy’s interviewing style is so open and engaging that the conversation took on a life of its own as we went over what brought me into my work as a therapist, the challenges I face, and how others helped me overcome my fears with a “beginners mindset.”

When we face a challenge as novice therapists we want to be perfect at it. We set our expectations of ourselves super high because we care so much about our work. If you are training to be a therapist, it is likely because you are caring and sensitive by nature, which predisposes you to put undue pressure on yourself. We think the pressure will help us perform better, yet this way of thinking often has the opposite effect. We can’t expect ourselves to be “experts” before we have earned the experience necessary to feel confident in our skills as a therapist. If we do, we run the risk of inadvertently sabotaging ourselves.

In this episode of The Trauma Therapist, we talk about the beginner’s mindset – permitting ourselves to be new at something. Allowing ourselves the grace to make mistakes, fumble, fall, and get back up again. When we are new at something, it’s impossible to be an expert. Expertise takes a long time, effort, and the willingness to fail over and over again until we get it right. It is through these failures that we hone our craft and become better each day. It is uncomfortable for many new therapists to make mistakes because we care so deeply about other people, but it is precisely the challenge we need to succeed.

If you feel like an expert coming out of your graduate or doctoral program, you are at risk of doing more harm than someone who feels wobbly and inadequate. Overconfidence is often why new therapists take on more than they can handle and can lead to mistakes that could harm themselves or others. So today, I encourage you to be a beginner. Let yourself feel shaky, nervous, and unqualified to help others. It’s right where you should be if you want to grow. We learn by falling down and figuring out how to get back up again, and those bumps and bruises (although painful) are what will make you the most effective therapist in the long run.

I wish you the courage to be new at this and recognize that being fresh is not a detriment. On the contrary, it is a necessary step on the path to success. Thank you for wanting to help others and provide respite to those suffering from mental health challenges. The world needs more people like you!

To keep learning about trauma and how to help others, please join our private Facebook group, Emotiminds. It is a place for parents and professionals to learn skills and resources to support each other in living our best lives. We would love to have your voice in the group!

Beth Tyson is a psychotherapist, author, and consultant on trauma-responsive practices. Drawing from her experience as a trauma therapist for families in the child welfare system, she provides training to schools, workplaces, and non-profit organizations to help support people impacted by traumatic experiences. If you would like to schedule a training or speaking opportunity, please contact her HERE.

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