There’s an old saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” I honestly could not have imagined where I would be had I not been blessed in the ways I was along my journey.
When I graduated from my Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy program, I remember my colleagues looking at one another and saying, “Now what?” They had put in their hours at their practicum site and completed all the academic requirements but did not have any guidance or direction about where to go or exactly what to do after graduation.
The Birth of My Internship Journey
I had five clients from my practicum site who I was fortunate enough wanted to follow me to an internship site as long as I stayed local. In addition to needing to figure out where I could transition to, I found myself wanting to know more, to be able to understand my clients in broader and deeper ways and be more equipped to help them. Grad school had given me a good start, but I knew there had to be more. Colleagues and friends conferred, as we were faced with navigating both the business of psychotherapy (finding work and all the parameters with that) and becoming better therapists.
On the Other Side
After getting through all that onto the other side I realized I had been blessed to have a private practice as an intern, work at a couple clinics, and make it through licensure. Reflecting on the challenges along the way and what I had overcome—and knowing what many others go through—my desire began to write a blog aimed at helping pre-licensed clinicians. With 20 years of professional writing experience and my undergraduate degree in Journalism, I set out to write articles addressing important issues therapists face early in their career.
No one had been writing anything that talked about the emotional and mental struggles we go through. Whether we find paid work or not, earn hours easily or struggle along the way, becoming a therapist, counselor, psychologist or social worker is grueling. When I was transitioning, no one really talked about it, and my colleagues and I could have really benefited from someone sharing these parts of it. Everyone seemed more caught up in finding the right interventions or technique to apply with clients rather than openly talking about the real struggles or working on themselves. And even with good supervision, many conundrums and questions go answered because we do not get enough time with them to thoroughly cover everything encountered in a week.
Lack of Services and Support
Realizing too that graduates have no guidance once they launch from school made me want to cultivate career services. New therapists can benefit by exploring their options and setting themselves up for success, since research shows many give up or cannot reach their goals. And others take whatever they can find, and often face burnout.
Having successfully navigated through all the steps to start and maintain a growing a private practice as an intern, I can help with the business and financial aspects. And, having landed two internships at clinics, I can help with finding pre-licensed work at agencies, clinics and hospitals, as well as managing issues encountered on the job.
With part of my background as a career coach and writer (of web site content, articles and newsletters), and having created my own site and content, I offer services to create and edit content for web sites, directory profiles, newsletters and blogs. And I review and provide expert feedback on resumes for clinicians.
Because I was fortunate to start and grow a private practice as an intern and find paid clinical positions, and I know many of the obstacles that come up, I am in a unique position to help others do the same. Because being a pre-licensed clinician brings on unique challenges.
Additional and Advanced Training
Because I also had a passion for understanding my clients in increasingly better ways, I sought out additional training and education. This started out with DBT certification, with additional studies on mindfulness and attachment, which stemmed into Emotionally Focused Therapy and Gottman for couples. Next came EMDR training. And this was building from my foundational education of family systems, experiential, post-modern, solution-oriented and CBT. And, as a student I studied approaches to work with resistant and difficult clients that we typically see with at risk youth, eating disorders and addiction groups.
Meanwhile, I began a doctorate program in Clinical Psychology and did that for a year when I realized that learning about psychodynamic theory and therapy had really been missing. I was seeing more complex trauma cases, depression and anxiety, psychosomatic issues and relationship issues. My supervisor who I was blessed to be working with nudged me as well, because he saw my hunger to advance my skills. I could tell I was missing out on understanding phenomena such as transference and countertransference, and other aspects of therapy and psychological issues. So, I completed a two-year certificate program in Advanced Psychodynamic Psychotherapy and Theory at the Newport Psychoanalytic Institute in Tustin, CA. I did this while in my own personal therapy and building my business skills to maintain and grow my practice.
Adding Pieces of the Puzzle Helped Me Hone Skills
As I immersed myself in the course content, and processed cases in supervision and personal therapy, I saw my work significantly improve and I felt increasingly more grounded. My understanding of complex issues, and even seemingly simple presenting problems, expanded. Essentially I became more perceptive–my ability to hone in and sensitively attune myself to subtle cues increased and I noticed I was more adept at identifying what clients’ needed. My effectiveness with couples improved too, as I became more skilled at understanding the individual issues as well as the relational dynamics.
Client’s Progressed as I Found My Groove
I saw freedom from dysfunctional patterns occur, and healing and resolution with individuals and couples. My clients with traumatic histories became more resilient and were moving forward in their lives.
Overall, I cultivated an integrative style that was informed by all the training and education I received. Psychodynamic theory and therapy became my basis for understanding and approaching cases while applying techniques from mindfulness, CBT, EMDR and solution-oriented to help them cope or work through a specific issue.
The therapeutic relationship remained paramount and I learned experientially, as well as academically, how profound that therapist-client alliance is. Of course, there are ongoing struggles when doing therapy or counseling, but adding these pieces of the puzzle led to feeling increasingly more competent and effective. Consulting with, and being supervised by, some of the top therapists in the field allowed me to grow in some really great ways–and I have a lot to give back to clinicians as a result.
Startling Numbers of Interns Don’t Get Licensed
After I was licensed, I was so grateful and relieved to reach that point. It was like running a marathon that lasted four years, with highs and lows. And I knew reaching the finish line was not something every intern or associate was fortunate to do, which led me to start researching how I could help. That’s when I discovered in California alone (the state most populated by therapists) that nearly half of Registered Marriage and Family Therapist interns don’t get licensed (at least in the past 10 years, from 2006 to 2016). That means thousands of people lose their way, quit or cannot acquire the resources to reach their goal. Nearly 40% of Professional Clinical Counselors have not gotten licensed either over the past four years. All of this is according the Board of Behavioral Sciences who has the final say on registrations and licenses.
The reasons are numerous as to why this happens, with many problems attributed to: difficulty finding paid work, earning hours in the allotted time, immense on-the-job stress, poor quality supervision or training, too much paperwork and unreasonable demands.
Where I Have Stepped In
This is where I have stepped in. My goal is to advocate for pre-licensed clinicians, and develop more free resources in addition to the paid-for services. The costs will always be kept affordable because my aim is to help as many people as possible. Eventually, I’ll create courses and workshops, but in the meantime my teaching is available through my blogs and one-on-one coaching and consultation, and marketing writing services. The goal with my blogs is to provide valuable information for free that you would usually have to pay for. Locally, I offer affordable process groups for pre-licensed therapists who live in Orange County and the Inland Empire. Those interested can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out about the next one.
Someone to Help Pre-licensed Therapists Be Successful
When I was a student and intern, I wished someone would have offered coaching or other helpful services. I could have saved hundreds of headaches, wrong turns, a lot of time and made more income. I would’ve been jazzed that there was a one-stop shop filled with services to help me be successful.
If you are feeling overwhelmed approaching this field, you are not alone and there are ways to minimize that sense of overwhelm. If you are excited about your prospects and want to ensure you move in the right direction and put your best foot forward, I have created free and paid-for services to help you do just that.
If you want to expand your understanding of your clients and get a different licensed therapist’s perspective, my consultation services can help broaden and deepen your conceptualization and provide tips you can implement right away.
No matter what your situation, this is an exciting time in your life. You have the potential to positively impact your current and future clients and help lighten the load of their burdens. You can make a difference in the world. Don’t give up. Keep fighting the fight.
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