Define “Good Enough” Therapist
Once upon a time, there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work. Early one morning, he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions.
Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching. As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer. The man could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea. The boy came closer still and the man called out, “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”
The young boy paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach. They can’t return to the sea by themselves,” the youth replied. “When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.”
The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”
The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish. He threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one!”
adapted from The Star Thrower, by Loren Eiseley (1907 – 1977)
Why am I sharing this story? Because it’s a metaphor for our careers as mental health professionals.
I first heard this story in grad school. It was told to me by someone who had been a clinician for many years. At the time, I was in unicorn and rainbow land thinking that I could manage anything and balance anything this job threw at me. Basically, I was ready to save to the world. Ok, maybe not save the world, but I really thought in my core that burnout was not going to impact me. I believed that I would never question my skills as a therapist. And, I thought I would never seriously consider a career change.
Then, reality hit, and it hit hard. It happened earlier than I thought and in a way that I did not expect. Which is typically what happens to all of us at one point or another.
Now, our country is significantly divided on many issues, you’re dealing with a pandemic, under stress, and holding emotional space for clients. This is causing many of my clients, who are therapists, to questioning their ability to have an impact on their clients when the world is in this current state.
Welcome to Advice for Therapists Month On My Blog!
Given all that is going on, I decided it was time to talk about my fabulous therapist peers for the month. Not a therapist? It will still be helpful for you since we all have areas that we feel “not good enough” in.
I am not good enough.
We all have a voice inside of us that is like a radio sports commentator.
Think about this story: One of my clients listens to Cleveland Indians baseball games while mowing her grass. She says that hearing the play by play allows her to create the image in her brain of what is happening on the field. The commentator describes every movement, every umpire call, and even the reactions of the players. There is typically limited dead space on air. If the radio is silent, then the station may lose listeners. So, they keep talking, keep describing in detail, and keep offering their opinion of what is occurring.
Your Inner Voice:
As humans and therapists, many of us have the same voice in our heads. You know, the one that is a commentator to every detail of our lives. The voice can come from childhood messages, perceived failures, or perfectionist tendencies. When we spend all day, every day stepping into the world of our clients, empowering them to make healthy choices, allowing them to not feel alone. When we do this, our inner voice has a field day.
One of my clients who is a therapist started calling that voice “Ed”. Not in a creepy weird way, but in a way to allow her to differentiate what she was thinking and why. Sometimes, “Ed” would tell her that she should change careers since she was giving advice to clients that she could not follow herself. “Ed” would remind her that she only has worth when she is helping people. “Ed” would leave her emotionally drained at the end of the day. So much so, that she would be convinced that clients would leave her if they really knew how her life was a hot mess.
My client was a rockstar therapist. She was able to show up, empower clients, and hold emotional space for them in an ethical manner. She just didn’t believe that she was “good enough” to continue in the field and was going to close her thriving private practice.
Her inner commentary was negative, rooted in a skewed core belief from childhood and she was isolating from her peers due to fears that they would judge her. Once she was able to identify and work through the underlying issues, she chose to remain in her private practice and altered what her work/life balance looked like. Is the commentary completely gone? Absolutely not. However, she is aware of her truth vs her fears but more importantly her why.
Have you ever questioned rather you are a “good enough” therapist?
Please take a minute and think about why you got into the field in the first place? Only you can answer that question and we all come to the field for so many different reasons. You can read about my reasons on the page Melissa’s Story. Figuring out your “why” helps remind you that you are more than “good enough” to be in the field.
You don’t need to be perfect to be a therapist.
Think about it, you have felt that way, haven’t you? Or, maybe you currently feel that way! You don’t have the be perfect to be the perfect therapist. The way you deal with your imperfections may be exactly what will make you a rockstar clinician. Clients are imperfect and so are you. Getting a graduate degree and all the letters behind your name does not mean that your life suddenly falls into place.
Therapy for Therapists™
If you can relate to this feeling then, join the club! I am a card-carrying member and probably always will be. My passion is to dispel the shame and guilt that comes with feeling not good enough as a clinician because your life isn’t all together. Life is meant to be messy and emotional and challenging. But, it is also meant to be an adventure and fun and filled with purpose.
So, raise your hand. Ask for help. I respect all the letters behind your name and will partner with you to get you back to having the unicorn and rainbow land experience we had when we graduated. Ok, maybe we shouldn’t get that crazy. But, I know it can be better than what you are feeling right now.
You got this – I am here to help if you ask. We can be rockstars together – one starfish at a time.
Begin Online Therapy for Therapists™ in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, California, and Tennessee:
If you’re ready to feel good about yourself and your life, then I’m here to help! I provide online therapy in Ohio, Tennessee, Florida, California, and Pennsylvania. I’m proud to offer online therapy for helping professionals, online therapy for busy professionals, and Therapy for Therapists™. I specialize in treating imposter syndrome, burnout, and anxiety using The Daring Way™ and offer online workshops to clients who want to overcome shame. Contact me today and let’s get started!