“I have written 11 books, but each time I think ‘Uh-oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out’.” –Maya Angelou
I’ll be the first to admit I have bouts of feeling like a fake and not knowing exactly what I am doing as a counselor in private practice. I question whether I’m giving my clients the help they need, and if I’m really qualified to be licensed as a play therapist. I am well aware these are feelings and not facts. I have years of success in counseling, and I have a lengthy list of clients I have guided through tough times. But a healthy level of concern can be helpful, and here are three ways to channel your imposter syndrome:
Admitting it is the First Step
The thought of being an imposter came up in my peer consultation group. Slowly but surely, every single one of the six experienced, knowledgeable, successful therapists in the group admitted to having these feelings from time to time. Just knowing that therapists like me have the same thoughts made me less isolated. Normalizing can be a powerful thing. Ah, the importance of a group!
Find the Purpose in the Worry
All our feelings have a purpose and some positivity to them. Determine how you can use this anxiety to improve your practice. I see it as an opportunity to develop my skills and knowledge. Figure out what is driving these feelings, and push yourself to learn more. If a stuck client is creating the doubt, attend a training, read a book or consult with a colleague to help you learn more and feel more confident. New intakes have come to a halt? Make sure you are working the 10 Steps to build a practice. Turn the anxiety into a growth opportunity.
Challenge False Thoughts
Dig into your CBT toolbox, and practice what you preach. Reassure yourself that you are competent and successful. Think about a client you helped move from the depths of depression to living an active and healthy life again. Remember the client who was bouncing from job to job, but after working with you has found stable employment. Find facts to reinforce how you have impacted your clients. I keep a “Smile File” of positive feedback I’ve received from clients and students over the years that is perfect to revisit during my imposter syndrome moments.
Doubt and worry are natural and helpful feelings for business owners and therapists. They push us to keep going and make improvements. Channel those negative feelings to grow your practice and improve your therapy. If Maya Angelou can push through her feelings of being an impostor, so can I.