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The Career of a Psychologist: Training

September 28, 2017

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?”

Photo of Dr. Shannon Chavez-Korell, PhD

Shannon Chavez-Korell, PhD

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.