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Jackie Schuld Art Therapy Blog

Bravado versus Earned Confidence in the Therapy Profession

“Would you like this referral for a couple?” my counseling internship director asked me.

I responded, “I’ve never worked with couples before.”

“Would you like to try?”

It takes a certain amount of bravado, or boldness, to take a risk and try something new.

Bravado has gotten me far in life. I trusted I could figure things out and just went for them. Bravado helped me to change careers, pursue graduate education, apply for new jobs, move to different countries, pick up new skills, and much more.

A black and white illustration of a woman standing with her hands on her hips and her head tilted back to signify bravado.
"Bravado" Illustration by Jackie Schuld

However, there is a risk to bravado. Without strong values and ethics, bravado can lead a person to jump into something they’re not prepared for. If our bold actions involve other people, we may unintentionally harm someone as we venture into unfamiliar waters.

I am now more conscious than ever of my limitations as a therapist. One benefit of running my own private practice is that I am 100% responsible. Everything is my decision and everything is my liability.

When my internship director asked if I wanted to see a couple, I thought, “Well, she thinks I can do it, and is ok with my lack of experience and knowledge. She will provide guidance as I do, so let me try.”

That was the appropriate way to make decisions at that level of my career.

Now, as a therapist in private practice, I ask myself, “Do I have enough experience to take on this client? Could my lack of knowledge prevent this client from receiving effective care?”

If the answer is no, I refer to another therapist. I refer a lot.

I also seek out training in the areas that interest me so I can continue to expand and grow.

I now understand that bravado is unsubstantiated confidence. It has its place, in measure.

Bravado may have gotten me here, but I am at a point in my life where I want earned confidence. I want to provide powerful therapy that is based on my experience, knowledge, and skills.


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