Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Secret To Overcoming Counselor "Nerves"

The first time you stepped into a counseling office in the role of therapist, you probably felt nervous. Sick to your stomach, maybe. Worried.

Once you got a little time "in the saddle," so to speak, however, you probably felt more confident. You had some key phrases under your belt, had come through some rough circumstances a time or two, and thought to yourself, "Well, glad that's over with."

Except it wasn't.

Despite your experience, despite the time you've spent with clients, from time to time you still feel nervous before you meet with a client for the first time. You worry that you're going to be enough for them. You worry that you might say the wrong thing. The thing you thought you were past has come back again, and you don't know why.

You might wonder if you've lost your skills, regressed somehow, and that's why these nerves are coming back. But it's likely that the opposite occurrence has triggered a return to self-doubt. 

As we gain more skills in counseling, we also gain more awareness of the complexities of problems that are out there. When we are not focusing every ounce of our energy on not screwing up, we have mental space to consider more clearly the ramifications of our actions.

Further, we realize as we move into the next stage - collecting hours for licensure, booking new appointments at an agency, or moving into a fee-for-service model - that our very future as a counselor depends on our own ability to maintain these client relationships and produce "results." 

That's paralyzing, without a doubt.

The first round of nerves was driven by the question, "What if I screw someone up?" The second round asks, "What if I screw up this as a career?"

Whenever you move forward and court greater success, greater fear always lurks in the shadows hoping to get to you. 

Whether it is starting your first private practice, or starting over somewhere new, it is so easy to lose your confidence. You no longer know the ropes. Everything is familiar, but new.

You knew you could do it, so you tried - but now that you're in it, you wonder if you were wrong.

You're not.

Your fear has nothing to do with reality, and everything to do with a false perception of your own ability. 

Human beings tend to base their predictions of the future on their experiences of the past. Since starting something new means by definition there is no exact experience to base it on, the temptation can be to view it as an unproven quality. 

But no matter what your future, there is one thing it can be counted on to have in it - you.

Wherever you exist there is hope for success. That's just a fact.

You want to think of yourself as the problem. After all, you're the one who has "messed up" in the past. 

But you're also the one who's got yourself to this point.

You didn't give up on your dream to be a counselor because the desire to help others got you through your self-doubt in the past. It can do it again. 

Here's the bottom line: You want to escape nerves and stop worrying about your future as a counselor? Believe in yourself and your mission. You're not perfect, and you're definitely flawed, but you're persistent, and you believe in your calling. That's all that is asked of you. 

Lesson of the Day:
You only fail when you give up. Otherwise, it's not over yet. 

Have you ever linked nervousness before sessions to doubt in your own abilities? How have you dealt with that? 

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