Shortly after I decided to attend MSPP and pursue a PsyD, I was offered these words of advice from a newly licensed psychologist: “fake it ’till you make it.” I have thought about this off and on, and tend to interpret the saying as “act like a psychologist until you feel like one.”
Two years ago, I began my first year practicum at a therapeutic high school for adolescents with social and emotional challenges. Nervous does not begin to describe how I felt when it came time to sit with my first client. My hands were shaky, my mouth was dry, and my voice sounded a little higher than normal. Thankfully, the 15-year-old boy with whom I met had been in therapy in the past and immediately opened up. My inexperience did not come across. Nor did it stop me from forming incredibly strong relationships with the teenagers that I saw throughout the year. They viewed me as a “therapist” even when I felt completely unsure of myself.
With each new internship, we face new challenges as we work in different settings or with different populations. I have had numerous conversations with other students who, at various times, feel like they don’t know what they’re doing. Yet we play the part, offering support and empathy for our clients/patients. The most important thing that I learned during my first year was the profound impact of simply showing up and being a consistent, warm, and encouraging presence.
Two years in, I still feel unsure of myself frequently. However, I have begun to let go of striving to feel like I’ve “made it.” There will always be new clients who challenge us in ways we never thought possible. There will always be new developments in the field that inspire us to try new interventions. There will always be more to learn. Yet I am confident in my ability to be empathic, warm, supportive, and full of positive regard for my clients. Sometimes, that is all I can offer. Often, that is enough.