But, how old are you? Words and insight from a young clinical therapist
Up until now, October 2018, I remain one of the youngest amongst my colleagues. If you are or have started clinical work between the ages of 22-25, perhaps you can relate. I landed into an accelerated grad school program at the age of 22, and graduated when I barely turned 24. Since graduation, I’ve been practicing clinical work, and accruing hours toward licensure. Although it’s been by far such an awarding experience, I had my own struggles conducting psychotherapy- but particularity from being a young (age-wise) clinician in the field.
“But, how old are you?” The question does come up in the clinic among older adults, especially parents battling for custody. Yes, initially I would feel intimidated to conduct therapy with older clients, but only with the thought that they may think I am “too young, inadequate, and inexperienced in life.” How self-sabotaging is that, if I actually thought I were all of those!
As young therapists, we can respond to these thoughts in various ways. For me, it is a lot of positive self-talk, affirmations, and building confidence. We should tell ourselves that:
1) We are mental health professionals that went through school to learn about clinical interventions, scientific research, system theories, and evidence-based practices. We also went through practicum to execute our knowledge.
2) If a client questions you because you are not going through the same experience (custody battles, court orders, divorce, etc.) as they are, you can respond to them with these questions: “Will a patient with a particular kind of tumor seek out services from a doctor that has the same tumor?” or “Does a doctor need to have had heart surgery before performing it on you?” I’m not saying it’s a bad thing if you’ve had similar experiences. In fact it can be better since it allows your client to relate with you more. But that won’t always be the case.
3) It all comes down to connection, empathizing, and being with the client. They need to know that you are more than an ear to hear- and, at least through my experience, that’s all they needed to know.
These thoughts definitely helped increase my confidence in working with older adults and parents. It amazes me to see where I’m at now compared to almost three years ago, when I first started conducting psychotherapy. Now I am consistently working with children AND adults, as well as teaching a cooperative parenting class for divorced and separated parents. For those young in the field, age-wise or if you’re just starting, I hope you’ll find that confidence! And if you already have it, good for you!
Also check out my new pages:
-Hannah, Associate Clinical Social Worker