Beginning any new venture carries with it a mixture of emotions. With the excitement of new possibilities and challenges, alongside the anxiety of moving into the unknown and taking on new experiences, many people find the combination of taking on new information and balancing these emotions exhausting.

These challenges can be difficult to balance in themselves, but if you have other areas of life to juggle such as caring for a family member, paying off debts or relocating to a new area, it can become even harder. So my advice to anyone starting out as a therapist is make sure, with all the competing demands on your time, you keep some time to yourself to reflect on your day, listen to your body, and build up a reserve of energy for the next challenge.

Moving from studying to working

It can be a big change moving from an academic environment, where so much of what you do is theoretical or where your practical experience is supervised into the world of work where the expectations on you are different and you are forging a career for yourself.

It is helpful during this time to remember that, while you strive to do your best, you are still learning and will make mistakes.

There will be colleagues who can help you and offer guidance, plus it is always a good idea to find a network of other professionals in a similar position with whom you can discuss your ideas, concerns and reassure one another. Building a professional support network is essential for growing your confidence as you become more experienced.

Limit risks

If you have concerns about what you can manage or take on then talk to fellow professionals and regularly refer to your professional code of conduct and ethics framework to remind yourself of the limits of what you can carry out professionally.

Make sure you have considered the risks associated with your work. These may include issues of health and safety, insurance, confidentiality and record keeping, budgeting and financial auditing.

If you have procedures in place and are familiar with the systems for minimizing the risks posed by these areas of your work, you can free your mind up to focus on your clients.

Build confidence

Like all things in life, the more we practice doing something the more familiar it becomes, and we become more relaxed and confident about doing it.

It is the same with working; the more experienced you become the more you feel equipped to deal with whatever tomorrow brings. However if you are feeling insecure or anxious about your work, it is worth remembering that even very experienced therapists have unexpected situations to deal with.

One of the great joys of dealing with people is that you never know what they might do or say next!

Ask for help when you need it

If you feel your confidence is not growing as you would expect, or if you become anxious about your work in the early stages of your career, take some time to consider which elements are causing your anxiety.

Once you have identified the problem areas, then discuss those concerns with a fellow professional who can offer some guidance. If your anxieties relate to your own self-belief or feelings of inadequacy, then see your own therapist to discuss them.

Wendy M. O'Connor, PsyD, LMFT
Latest posts by Wendy M. O'Connor, PsyD, LMFT (see all)