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clinical,  counseling,  Self-care,  therapy

Clinical Work – My Experience As A Young Therapist

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.

and

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!

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-Hannah, Associate Clinical Social Worker

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Psychotherapist and Associate Clinical Social Worker; emphasis on Families and children, and k-8 school systems. I love Jesus, my husky-bull, my reptile babies, hiking, and making music! In an ever so changing world, I hope to help you help yourself find some peace!

7 Comments

  • PhoenixArisingBlog

    Wow, I never thought I would read something from someone who understood the struggles of going into the social work field at such a young age. Currently, I am 16 in my freshman year of college, which puts me at 19 when I graduate (if I continue with taking summer terms) and 18 when I begin field work, which has been really scary for me. This would also mean if I get into the advanced standing program I hope to, I will be 20 when I graduate with my MSW. A lot of times, people don’t take me seriously, “You’re 16, what do you know?” “You haven’t experienced anything yet, just wait until you see how hard life actually is.” Which not only is degrading and invalidating as I definitely know how hard life is, better than a lot of people I would hazard, but is extremely prejudice and stereotypical. I’ve heard it specifically about being a young social worker as well, with threats that no one would take me seriously and I would be unhireable. It’s scary, so thank you for sharing this, it makes me feel a little less alone and a lot less petrified

  • Charles Lucas

    I am a clinical therapist and own my own practice now but I remember when I first started in this profession. I worked in a hospital so it was 90% older adults; especially on the floors that I was working on. I would get those little scoffs coming as close as they could to “what the hell do you know?” I remember thinking to myself “well, you don’t have to carry yourself like you are in your 20’s. Act confident and they will have confidence in you”. Yeah so I remember the first time that I just said screw it and decided to respond. They said something about me being so young and I responded with “yeah but you are really old so we can just meet in the middle”. They laughed and so did their family and it was at that moment when I knew I was ready for live rounds. Keep doing your thing and hope all is well.

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