Friday, September 12, 2014

What You're Afraid Of Right Now

The results are starting to come in.

The most common Beginning Counselor fear is fear of lack of personal ability. Running right behind that (less than five percentage points behind) is fear of failure.

Do you identify with that as well?

I certainly did. Last week, I sent Beginning Counselor members an email talking about how fear of screwing up a client reduced me to a nervous mess before my first session. I invited Beginning Counselor members to take an anonymous survey on what fears they struggle with on a regular basis. (If you haven’t yet, you can take the survey right now, it’s still open.) 

Over 60% of those polled described their professional anxiety as ‘moderate’ – meaning regular (although not constant) worries about their future or professional abilities. The most common result of those worries, so far, is the “genuine worry that [they] will be unable to make this career work.”

While this is not a scientific survey – I cannot guarantee a random sample or eliminate other factors as influential in the results – I think it calls for further research at the very least. And a frank discussion of what this means for us, even with the caveat of it not being a fully scientific research study.

Respondents to the study shared comments about their concerns that their fears would impact their work with clients. They said things like:
  • I'm “freezing up mentally with clients due to my negative thoughts like, ‘I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.’”
  • I’m worried I will begin “overstepping boundaries with clients that I begin to care a lot for.”

They shared worries about their future career options, saying things like: 
  • “I fear I will not be able to get enough hours to pass, and then if I do graduate can I afford to live on being an intern and will I have to pay for supervision, too”?
  • I know “if counseling was my only profession I would have to get another job to survive financially for awhile, based on other beginning counselors I know.”
  • I’m concerned about, “not being able to repay my student loans…not being able to start and sustain a private practice.”
  • I’m afraid that, “my goal is unrealistic.”

As for me? Here’s what I worry will happen if we don’t address this within our community.

Due to fear or lack of support, I fear we will lose good counselors.
  • If you’re afraid you can’t make a living…
  • If you’re afraid you won’t be able to help…or may even hurt your clients…
  • If the pressure gets overwhelming…

It would seem a logical concern that you might consider leaving the field somewhere down the line.

That, to me, is unacceptable. 

So what can we do about it?

There’s really only three options:
  1. Do nothing.
  2. Wait and see.
  3. Do something.

Here’s a hint: the first two options are the same.

Can I guarantee that doing something is going to be doing the right something? Heck no. But I prefer the option of trying something to the other two.

So here’s what I suggest as far as “doing something.”
  1. If you haven’t already, click on this link and help us get more accurate data to work with by taking the survey on professional anxiety. (Paying special attention to question #8 which tells me what I can do to help you in the future.)
  2. Share your fears with another beginning counselor you trust, to normalize the anxiety and offer support to someone else.
  3. Attend “Beat Private Practice Anxiety! How To Get Rid of Your Business Fears Once & For All,” October’s FREE MYOB webinar. Even if you’re still in training, if your private practice is way down the line, or if you’re not sure whether you’ll start a private practice at all, you still need to come. 

For one thing, the earlier you prepare for practice success, the more likely you are to have it. For another, I’m going to be talking about how to have confidence in yourself as a professional as part of how you can have success in private practice. So either way, you need to make sure you will be there!