I was watching a video from Casey Truffo’s conference where a woman was talking about how she took a 6 year leave from the field and came back to discover that all of the other therapists were so young now. I remember early in my career sitting down with a new client and upon seeing me having her say “Oh thank God you’re not 16.” Obviously that’s an exaggeration, you’d have to be a prodigy to get through graduate school by 16, but it does speak to the fact that that client had probably seen a lot of young therapists. And why is that? One of the things we have to ask ourselves is if more experienced therapists are exiting the field.
I witnessed this a lot prior to working in private practice. So many of my colleagues would exit the work force as soon as they were married. Many more would work for a couple years and then go back to school to change professions. What then happens is that we are left with a void of experienced therapists. And of course, I think this is a real shame because experienced therapists do valuable work. After all those years of school, you then enter the field and start to hone your craft through working with real clients, and then just as all your hard work is about to pay off and your able to make a real contribution to society, people leave the profession.
Maybe you’re thinking of abandoning your career as a psychotherapist. Maybe your reading this article hoping to receive some reassurance that leaving the field is the right thing for you to do. I can’t give that reassurance. All I can say though is that if you’ve been in the field for 4 years or less, don’t give up! This is a profession that it takes a while to get good at. This is also a profession that thankfully is highly flexible. If there’s something about your job that is just killing you, then thankfully there are other jobs out there in the field that don’t have that.
If you’re struggling right now, a change of scenery can be really helpful. Try something different. What’s out there that’s different from what you’re doing now? For starters, you could work for the insurance companies, you could teach some intro psychology classes as an adjunct professor, you could do short-term counseling on a college campus, you could go completely administrative and be an assistant program director, you could work in a nursing home… You could do any one of these for a year or two and find that you’ve found your calling or perhaps find that you’ve had another time to return to the type of counseling job you’re doing now. As you can see, there’s a lot of options out there.
Another option would be to see if you could get your boss to work with you as far as changing your job description to something less stressful. And of course there’s always the option of having complete control and working for yourself. Hopefully reading this has given you some hope and good ideas for moving forward.