Jackie Schuld Art Therapy Blog

Tell Me What to Do: Insecurity as a New Therapist

As an art therapy student in grad school, I desperately wanted to learn more.


When I attended my first art therapy conference, I was already in my internship. I had a caseload of 15 adolescent clients and was running two adolescent art therapy classes that met DAILY.


I needed more ideas.


I was frustrated at the conference because presentations typically provided a few concrete examples of what to do in an art therapy session. I wanted MORE.


I wanted my therapeutic work to be tailored to my adolescents, but I wasn’t entirely sure how to do that. I wanted more ideas of what was possible.


Watercolor illustration of a person looking concerned and reaching for something, while an orange figure embraces them.
"Unsure" Watercolor by Jackie Schuld

I think this is a common feeling as a new therapist. I wanted swift change and relief for my adolescents, and I thought the next “right” art therapy project could get me there. I didn’t have the experience to understand the value of the therapeutic relationship or a client’s growth over time.


I also didn’t trust myself as a new art therapist. I wanted a plan.


It was hard to know what to do in the course of a single session. I knew how to set goals and create treatment plans, but I wasn’t always sure the best way to reach them.


I also wanted to honor my client’s time. I wanted them to feel the session was beneficial.


I put a lot of pressure on myself.


It’s been five years since my internship. Through trial and error in the therapy room, great supervision, self-education (I read LOTS of psychology books), and my own experiences in therapy, I slowly became a competent, confident therapist.


While I no longer want to be told what to do (which I now understand isn’t very helpful due to the variability of the human client who sits in front of me), I do still appreciate new ideas, guidance, and unique perspectives.


I’ve developed self trust and trust in the process of therapy.


I wish I could "give" new therapists these things, but it's not possible. Every therapist has to find and develop it for themselves over time.


It’s similar to our therapy clients. We cannot tell them what to do; we help them find and decide for themselves what to do.


So, if you’re a new therapist and unsure of yourself, the best thing I can tell you is that you’re not alone. We’ve all been there. And it will come with time.

 

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