Imposter syndrome is a common experience in many career paths, and the mental health field is no exception. As a therapist, you might sometimes find yourself wondering if you have the experience, skills, or qualifications to be in the profession. You may feel like you’re just pretending to be a therapist and that someone will eventually realize that you don’t belong. When you get certain opportunities, such as giving a workshop or contributing to a book, you might tell yourself that you don’t know enough to be considered an expert.
Therapists frequently experience imposter syndrome, so you’re not alone when you have these doubts. Being a therapist can feel like an enormous responsibility. You want to do your best to support your clients, and you may worry that you’re not doing enough. Just because this struggle is common doesn’t mean it should go unaddressed, though.
How do therapists get over imposter syndrome? You work with your clients to address their unhelpful, unhealthy, or illogical thinking patterns. To beat your own self-doubt, you may have to use those same strategies on yourself. Overcoming imposter syndrome as a therapist requires a combination of self-reflection to address your doubts and active steps to feel more confident in your professional skills.
Here Are Six Tips for a Therapist to Beat Imposter Syndrome
1. Remember your training
You didn’t become a therapist overnight, and it didn’t happen by accident. Mental health professionals often experience imposter syndrome when they forget just how much work they’ve done to get where they are. You hold an undergraduate and a graduate degree, you’ve completed thousands of hours of supervised practice, and you’ve taken a professional exam to earn your license.
Some therapists forget that their knowledge and skills are highly specialized. When you’ve been doing this work for a long time, some ideas and techniques start to feel obvious or second-nature to you. They don’t come naturally to the majority of the population, though. Remember that you are a mental health professional and that you specialize in offering the support and wisdom your clients need to maintain their well-being. Most people don’t have the skill set that you have, and what you offer to your community is incredibly valuable.
2. Call it out
Imposter syndrome can be a sneaky problem because it can convince you that your doubts are real. When you let the anxious or self-critical thoughts live in your mind for too long, they start to feel more and more genuine. One of the best things you can do to overcome this issue is point it out to yourself when you experience it.
There may be times where you truly don’t know enough on a topic or have enough experience in an area to call yourself an expert. In these cases, seeking continuing education or supervision is helpful. No therapist should believe they’re equipped to handle everything. However, your self-doubt will make you think that you’re unprepared or inexperienced even when you have no reason to believe that’s true. When those irrational thoughts creep in, remind yourself that you’re experiencing imposter syndrome. Those thoughts come from your negative inner voice, not your true self. You don’t have to listen to them, and if you dismiss them right away, they won’t hold power over you.
3. Remind yourself of your successes
Just like you can remind yourself of all of the education and training you’ve had up to this point, you can also call attention to your past successes. It’s much easier for us to remember our failures than our successes, but chances are, you’ve had more wins than losses.
Think about all of the times you’ve helped your clients make important breakthroughs in their lives. Remember every compliment you’ve received or every professional success you’ve had. Also, try to remind yourself of your strengths as a therapist. Even if you feel like an imposter, you can probably list at least a few of your qualities that make you excel in your field. By consciously calling attention to your strengths, you’ll start to counteract some of your self-doubt.
4. Realize that you don’t need to know everything
Being able to forgive yourself is an important part of being a therapist. Mental health is a large and complex field, and no one can know everything about every diagnosis or method of treatment. You can seek out additional training or certifications for the areas of the field that are most needed for your work, but it’s also important to allow yourself not to know everything.
Therapists need to forgive themselves when they make a mistake, too. No one does their job perfectly every single day, and making one mistake doesn’t mean that you’re a fraud or that you don’t deserve to have your career.
5. Stop comparing yourself to colleagues
Comparing yourself with colleagues can be the root of serious self-doubt or self-criticism. You may look at another therapist and see a confident, successful individual who never seems to have a difficult moment. However, you may not see the full picture, and in reality, they may be struggling with imposter syndrome just as much as you are.
People try to show their best selves to the world, so you might only see a part of a colleague’s experience. Meanwhile, you witness all of your own ups and downs firsthand, so you end up comparing your most challenging moments to another person’s best moments.
6. Speak to a supervisor or to your own therapist
If your self-doubt is starting to affect your mental health or your ability to support your clients, it’s important that you seek help. You could talk to a supervisor or a trusted colleague about your concerns, and they’ve probably had similar experiences. It can help to know you’re not alone and to hear what techniques other counselors have used to overcome the issue.
You could also discuss the situation with your own therapist. During your own therapy session, you can be as candid as you need to be about your experiences, and you can explore the root cause of your imposter syndrome. Then, you can make a plan for addressing and overcoming the negative thoughts so that you can feel truly confident in your skills.
Experiencing imposter syndrome as a counselor can be overwhelming, but you don’t have to live with this feeling. This intense self-doubt is rarely a sign of professional inadequacy. You’ve worked hard to earn a place in the mental health field, and you should be proud of your accomplishments. Pay attention to your successes, dismiss your critical inner voice, and seek support from others when you need it so that you can overcome imposter syndrome for good.
Blue Moon Senior Counseling provides counseling services for older adults. If you or an aging loved one is struggling with depression, anxiety, grief, loneliness, or any other mental health concern, reach out to us today to connect with a therapist in your area.