The career of a psychologist unfolds through many phases. How does the experience, including both the joys and the challenges of being a psychologist, change over time? Borrowing Jeffrey Kottler’s (2012) depiction of the stages in the career of a psychologist, we asked MSP faculty to offer their perspectives. Shannon Chavez-Korell, PhD talks about Stage One.
Stage One – Training: “What if I don’t have what it takes?”
When I was beginning my graduate training I knew that I wanted to help people, I was good at listening, and I wanted to celebrate people (their struggle and resilience) without judgment. Becoming a therapist was a clear match to my value system and worldview.
In sitting down with my first official clients during my practicum training, the weight of the responsibility set in. I was uncertain, nervous, and unprepared to make decisions that greatly affected other people’s lives. I was also initially uneasy consulting with my supervisor, as I was afraid that my questions would reveal my incompetence and might flag me as being unqualified for this profession. I began questioning whether I had what it takes to be an effective clinician.
Despite my fears, I decided to be open and honest with my supervisor, because I had a responsibility to my clients who were relying on my clinical services. I was greatly relieved to find the support, guidance, and expertise (without judgment) that I so desperately needed.
Kottler, J.A. (2012). The therapist’s workbook: Self-assessment, self-care, and self-improvement exercises for mental health professionals (second ed., pp. 10-16). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.