New Therapists and New Drivers!

New Therapists and New Drivers!

Do you remember learning to drive a car? That was a long time ago for me! My dad patiently taught me in our four-door, behemoth Pontiac Bonneville, with a few extra lessons from a driving school.

Currently, in my role as a supervisor and internship host, I work with a lot of new therapists, and heck, I once was one myself! (Plus, I believe we are always starting new each session, no matter how much experience we have!)

Well, being a new therapist is a lot like being a new driver.

You start off feeling anxious, hit the brakes too hard or have trouble maintaining a consistent speed. You turn either too fast or too slow. And you can never please your teacher! But eventually it’s much more automatic, you get the feel for it, and your brain easily checks the mirrors, the road, the speedometer, and the other cars to keep you vigilant.

A new therapist experiences something very similar! You might feel nervous and make some clunky moves with your client, like trying to go for primary emotion a bit too soon, stacking too many questions or rushing in to fill the silence. You might overrespond to a crisis (like stopping short or turning the windshield wipers on at full blast) or you might not instantly recognize warning signs (telling you to slow down and turn on your hazard lights).

But eventually you get the hang of it, settle in, and relax, while still staying alert to all the constant cues and signals that your client and the therapeutic relationship transmits. So just like driving a car, you can react and respond to the bumps in the road, or as a therapist to the choice points in the session.

What parts of therapy are you working on lately to feel more natural and in the groove? How can I help you move beyond the learner’s permit stage? And what parts have already become more automatic and comfortable for you? I’d love to know! Leave a comment below.

Here’s to the ride and the journey…when you can look back on being a new therapist and say, “Hey, it’s like driving a car! I’ve got this!”

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