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Articles for a New Therapist

August 28, 2019

One of the more nerve-wracking parts of studying to become a psychologist is completing the requisite 500 hours (at the MA level) of clinical training at a practicum site. MA students begin work in a variety of clinical settings – clinics, hospitals, crisis or community centers – almost as soon as they begin to take classes and study course materials.

This system inevitably leads to strong feels of uncertainty, bordering on anxiety for some, as to how they will essentially begin doing a job that they have only started to learn.

Feelings of fear, doubt – dare I say dread – are normal and very common.  I might worry if a student experienced none. But the system works for one very mysterious and very plain reason – everything you need to begin is already inside you.

Which is to say, all you have to bring to that first session is yourself. Bring as much of yourself, as authentically as you can. And in this state of authentic expression, open yourself to your client’s experience. Listen carefully, observe everything, and be as present as you can.

This is easy and this is very difficult.

Know also that you are not alone in your feelings. You, your classmates, every other cohort of MA psychology students now, every year before you and every year in the future, share this common bond. It’s just part of the process.

Don’t believe me? Below are a few more articles to read, when you feel your resolve slip, or you suspect that fear may win:

You Didn’t Get Dumber, You Just Went to Grad School

How I Bombed My First Therapy Session: How hard, I think, can this be?

Be Prepared: The First Therapy Session

Facing your first clients: Shake off those first-client jitters with advice from these seasoned and early-career psychologists.

When Therapy Changes the Therapist: Five Tales of Self-Discovery


Cynthia Ransley, MA, LLP (‘15) is Communications Coordinator for MSP.