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Post: Blog2_Post

A few thoughts on Imposter Syndrome

Updated: Feb 10, 2023

A few days ago I posted about using 3 metrics to evaluate your effectives as a counselor. In that post I briefly touched on imposter syndrome.

I'd like to take a minute and talk a little more about imposter syndrome.

I think we have an epidemic of imposter syndrome in the therapy field and I'm uncomfortable with how we handle it.

A typical scenario I see goes something like this:

A trainee comes up to us and says, "I'm really struggling with imposter syndrome," or "I kinda feel like I'm not doing a good job with clients," or something along those lines.

And we typically respond,

"Well it takes time," or...

"You just got to keep working at it," or...

"Of course! Therapy is hard. It makes sense you feel that way," or...

"Remember, what you really offer people isn't techniques, it's your presence," or...

"Yeah we live in a oppressive capitalist society where your agency is pressuring you to see more clients than is healthy."

I think all these responses are, often, a deflection away from the trainees actual concern:

They aren't getting the results they want from their caseload. And they know it's because they aren't good.

They are missing the skills to deal with certain situations and they know it.

There's a deep pain in that.

I mean look around. People flock to trainings and certificates right after school because they get out into the field and go, "oh crap! I have no idea what I'm doing!"

Here's the problem. I don't think we can fix this problem by validating people.

Think of it this way. If someone comes to you for text anxiety, are they ever going to feel confident if they don't study for the test?

They may study for the test and still feel anxious. Sure. Totally possible.

But if they don't study, will your support and validation help? Or will they still feel anxious, because deep down they know they don't know the material? Because they actually can't pass the test.

I'll leave you with one last story.

I was recently talking with Tony Rousmaniere, the founder of Sentio Counseling Center, a clinic where counselors see clients, and get deliberate practice based supervision on their cases so they can improve their skills.

Turns out they actively ban their supervisors from giving positive feedback.

No "attaboys."

No validation.

No affirmations.

Why? Because they found that when supervisors were allowed to give positive feedback trainees would become more anxious.

Supervisors are only allowed to give corrective feedback. "You did X. I want you to do Y. let's practice Y." This actually lowers trainees anxiety. Because they actually know what to do, which builds the confidence of competence.


If you liked this post, consider reading this next. I think you'll like it ;) It's about knowing if you're a good counselor.

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