I’m Scared I Could Be Doing Something Wrong: Navigating Professional Life as a Therapist
Mental health is a profession focused on the well-being of others. Given the amount of responsibility therapists hold, it is particularly important we remain up to date in the field, including policies, laws, and ethics.
I stay up to date on all of this.
And yet, it has been a fear of mine that there is information I don’t know.
That I’m missing some legal component.
Fear that I’m doing it wrong.
That there’s an easier and more effective way to do something.
The fear can consume me, and it’s something I’ve written about in the past in my essays “When What You Fear Comes True” and “The Fear That Comes with Running a Private Practice.”
I’ve also written about how fear can come from a fault-proof mindset, where we long for clear, concrete answers.
Part of being a therapist is navigating a complex field where there isn’t always one best answer.
We can navigate this area, and the fear of not knowing something, in multiple ways:
We can remind ourselves that graduate school is designed to teach us the foundational basics so that we don’t miss anything fundamental
We can look up the laws for our geographical areas and the policies for our own boards. We can ensure we are informed and clear in our own minds (and not just someone’s interpretation of them).
We can seek out quality supervision or consultation - by that, I mean someone we trust, who genuinely cares, stays up to date in the field, conducts themselves ethically, and is capable of addressing concerns (you can read more in my essay What Makes a Great Supervisor).
We can join consultation groups (or create them if you cannot find them). Consultation groups provide a safe place for us to bring our questions, learn new approaches, and stay up to date in the field. Many times my fellow therapists have brought a new law or issue to my attention that I was not aware of previously.
We can review our therapy sessions and note areas where we didn’t know what to do. We can then use it to fuel our education. We can turn to our supervisors or consultation groups. We can seek out continuing education.
We can identify our gap areas of knowledge and seek more education. For example, I started hearing the term “neurodiverse” more in 2021 and made it my goal to educate myself on the topic.
We can see a therapist. I’ve written about this before: therapists need therapists. Therapists help us to examine what is activating us and see blind spots we cannot.
We can turn to trusted, close friends. When we confront something especially difficult, we can seek counsel and support from those who know us best.
Everything on this list has one thing in common: action.
We will never have it all figured it out ahead of time. We can never know everything we don’t know. We do everything we can (such as the above steps), and then accept that we are human.
We take a step and know that we can handle it if we hit a road bump (or block!).
If you want more community and support in your professional life, I provide consultation to therapists who want to create their ideal private practice.