capturing the beautiful calamity of healing in therapy

Licensed in the State of California

Licensed in the State of California

I have been officially licensed for one month! In a nutshell, this means I completed graduate school, attained 3000 clinical hours in a variety of categories, and passed two licensing exams. The Board of Behavioral Sciences gathered all this information and deemed me competent to reach this holy grail in therapy land.

This has been a long, arduous journey, and I am incredibly grateful to have reached this significant milestone. With that said, I would like to take some brief time to reflect on this experience and share with any potential or novice therapists embarking on this road themselves

My Recommendations

  • If I can leave imparting advice on any new therapist entering this journey, it is be with the experience. It is not so much about the interventions or the training or the coursework. It is not about how many fancy workshops you attend or reading as many textbooks as possible. All of these help, yes, but they pale in comparison to any experience that is achieved in the therapy room
  • It’s okay to not know exactly what kind of therapy work you want to do (or to change your mind a lot!) I interned in six internship sites, and while I don’t believe this is necessary for everyone, it was invaluable to work with such diverse and different populations. Now, I work with acute substance disorders (and love it), but this was definitely not my original plan.
  • Find an EXCITING hobby! Seriously! I know self-care is drilled into our heads day in and day out, but I encourage everyone to move even beyond that and find something that you can totally get lost in. I discovered rock climbing over the past year, and it’s something I’m completely in love with. I can disconnect and stay completely present with that activity. At the bare minimum, it is essential to learn how to charge our emotional batteries.
  • Do not work for free. Seriously. Your work is valuable. Do not underestimate it.

What Have I learned?

  • There is therapeutic theory, which is critical, but do not ever, ever, ever minimize the importance of basic connection  skills: unconditional positive regard, validation, reflection, and sometimes just providing total support. These are typically the first skills we therapists learn, and, time and time again, they prove to be the most valuable.
  • Neither a law and ethics nor a clinical vignette exam measures actual therapeutic quality, but you will need to learn to be comfortable (and subsequently pass) tests that focus on critical thinking. I’m a good test-taker, but I know many excellent therapists who struggle with this and really had to work on refocusing and reframing their thinking.
  • Clients will move you in ways you do not expect. You will learn more about humanity in their stories than you ever anticipated.
  • Flexibility is critical. I work in a beautiful private office right now, but I’ve provided therapy in supply closets, curbs, and benches. I’ve had clients walk out, scream at me, curse me out. I’ve had an abundance of job responsibilities outside stereotypical “therapy work.” Just like we expect our clients to “roll with the punches of life,” the best therapists are the ones who can do this themselves.
  • Mistakes happen. You’re going to make statements that don’t land, have sessions that don’t go quite the way you envision, and you just won’t mesh with every single person who you come across. It’s okay. Learn, revise, reflect, and move on.

What’s next? 

  • I’m continuing to work in residential treatment. I have an amazing job with an amazing team, and I enjoy the work I do everyday.
  • I’m writing more! Check out my weekly column, Therapy Unscripted, hosted by Addiction Unscripted. My goal is to continue expanding my writing to promote mental health advocacy and the virtues of therapy to even greater audiences.

Are you a therapist? Want to be one? Let’s get in touch! Contact me via email