During this series, I have covered positives of seeing a young therapist, positives of being a young therapist, and things you need to be aware of regarding using a young therapist. During this last post in the series, I will discuss some of the specific challenges that young professional therapists face.
Here is a list of them:
1. People talking down to you. I get so frustrated when people who are older than me, especially those who are not in my field, act like I don’t know what the crap I am doing when I do! I work in a hospital setting and I will have other staff sometimes tell me how to fill out paperwork that I know how to fill out, tell me I am supposed to do something that I know is not my role, act like they know more about mental health topics than I do, make comments or ask questions insinuating that I am not acting like a professional, etc.
2. You will sometimes be called outside of your name. I have noticed that some of the older staff you interact with in a variety of settings will call you pet names such as “baby girl”. Although it is not intentional, it can feel somewhat demeaning because you know that there is no way that the same person would use those kind of names when interacting with an older, more experienced, mental health professional.
3. Other people may assume they know your role better than you do. As a young therapist, you are still fully honing down your role, and may know it but your confidence is shaky at times. Then, boom! Just when you think you have it figured out, you will have staff make comments and even chew you out for not doing things that are not even your role!
4. You will likely not start out in your dream job. After you work your butt off in school for 6 years or more and finally graduate, you will likely feel like you are at the place where you should be able to get the job you want. However, this is often not the case. Sometimes, you will be forced to take whatever job you can get. However, all experiences are valuable even if you are unable to see their value.
5. The brokenness of people and of the mental health system can be stressful and even heartbreaking. You will realize that there are things in people’s lives and in the mental health system that you feel powerless to change. Your heart will hurt too much for some people. You will become angry when you find some injustices in our current mental health system.
6. Even as a professional, it is OK to not always be OK. As a professional helper, it is easy to feel like you have to always have your crap together. Truth is, you are human too. You have to take care of yourself. Just like you would not think of a cardiologist as weak or incompetent if he had a heart attack, you are not weak or incompetent if you have your own mental health or addiction issues that you need treatment for.
In conclusion, there are many positives to working with a young therapist and with being a young therapist. However, there are also some things to be cautiously aware of when either using a young therapist and when deciding to become one. Although the negatives can seem like a deterrent, both working with a young therapist and becoming a young therapist can be richly rewarding.