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September 7, 2010 1:09 PM   Subscribe

How to tell if I might be a decent therapist? I already have a degree which could lead to a therapy license. Everyone seems to think I could be except me. Sorry for the story inside...

Not that you all can predict the future or anything, but I am trying to sort out if I should become a therapist or not, on a personal level. I got my MSW in May and have been doing case management (with Spanish speakers) for the past 2-3 years. Now I'm starting my licensure supervision. The supervisor I have was also my first supervisor during one of my MSW internships, so she knows me pretty well. During our first supervision sesson last week, she said, "So when are you going to start doing therapy?" My boss has also asked me this and has offered me "hours" in which to do therapy, for example do case management 32 hours a week and see therapy clients 8 hours a week. My boss also sends me out in the community to do debriefings in Spanish and such when companies ask a mental health professional to come out.

I started my MSW program with the intention of becoming a therapist but I was almost "held back" a year in my program because school staff thought I was too emotionally immature. I was 22 and (see my previous question about my inability to hide my feelings) not equipped with any kind of thought/expression filter. I was allowed to continue with the program after I issued a general apology to the school staff for writing snarky internship journal entries and basically said I would straighten up. I still don't really understand how that got to that level; many of my supporters were baffled by it. My internship supervisor offered me my current full-time job soon after this.

I assumed, because of this, I would never be a good therapist. I assumed "everyone" thought I'd be terrible at it so I stuck with case management. However, after asking around, I seem to be the only one who thinks I'd be horrible. I'd be willing to try it but I'd feel bad if I did a bad job at it because it involves real, vulnerable clients. It's not like screwing up what I'm making for dinner. I like mental health work and am intrigued about doing therapy... Am just chock full o'doubt because I am introverted and reserved and slightly snarky. I get along well with most of my current clients, but I feel like in order to do therapy I need to be Rainbow Bright or something.
posted by ShadePlant to Human Relations (17 answers total)
 
On review, my actual questions are: Can I "tell" if I'd be a half-decent therapist? Can an INTP, introverted and analytical yet still invested in mental health type of person be a good therapist? Is it worth the risk to try it with good supervision? Thanks.
posted by ShadePlant at 1:12 PM on September 7, 2010


I assumed, because of this, I would never be a good therapist.

All or nothing thinking.

I assumed "everyone" thought I'd be terrible at it so I stuck with case management

Mind reading.

You have a lot of assumptions there. I'd bet money you're ready.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:13 PM on September 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


The key here will be whether your sense of responsibility toward your client will be greater than your emotional impulsiveness. I expect that you would develop a sense of professionalism which allows you to act appropriately when you are engaged in your profession, even though in other areas of your life you are less disciplined. In the end, you will only find out by doing it. Can you risk doing a bad job? Sure, you can risk it. The health care professions always involve some risk. It's really unlikely that you would do such a bad job that your first client will go crazy and commit suicide even before you are able to quit the case so that another, better therapist can step in for you. Give it a try. I would not be surprised if you turn out to be a great therapist. And if you read the AskMeFi section very often, you will notice that there are lots of people who need therapy.
posted by grizzled at 1:18 PM on September 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'd say it is worth the risk to try it with good supervision. In my own life, I have sometimes astonished myself by rising to the demands of a job even when it required me to behave in ways that would be very hard for me otherwise; in other words, I have once or twice been able to take on the role of a job and do it well. I'm thinking specifically about being a security supervisor at a large music festival, which required me to deal with difficult people, check on challenging situations, tell angry people that they couldn't have the thing they wanted because it was against festival policy, and so on. In other words, I had to be much more forceful, assertive, and non-conflict-avoidant than I tend to be "in real life." It may be the same with you as a therapist--not that you need to be Rainbow Brite, but that you may well be perfectly able to take on the role, keep the focus productively on the client, and so on.

Also, unless you're really screwed up in some horrible way, I think the worst you could do starting out is to be not-helpful. I had a graduate student therapist-in-training when I was in college, and in retrospect she wasn't bad but she didn't help me much, the way more experienced therapists I had later did. Presumably if you're unlicensed the people you have as therapy clients will know they're working with someone in training who is supervised, so that's OK.

Finally, when we're young, we all behave in ways we wouldn't when we get older. Hopefully we learn from the experience. But don't let it hold you back from doing something you might well enjoy and be good at.
posted by not that girl at 1:22 PM on September 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


IME, introverted and analytical folks make up a large portion of the field! If anything, that temperament is an asset.
Go for it!
posted by couch fort dinner party at 1:22 PM on September 7, 2010


The emotional impulsiveness is a lot better, especially after working in the field for almost three years now. I still make weird faces sometimes (to the delight of my friends) but am a lot less likely to blurt out everything I think, etc. I am more worried about my introversion and the fact that the Meyers Briggs says I shouldn't even be in social work at all. One measure, but still. Sheesh. I took a real MB test when I was thinking about quitting my program during all the drama.
posted by ShadePlant at 1:23 PM on September 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


The flip side of introversion and reserve is thoughtfulness and really good observational skills. Introverted, reserved, and snarky are three qualities I would be/have been delighted to find in a therapist. I'm a snarky introvert too and would have a really hard time having a therapeutic relationship with Rainbow Brite. Plus, if good supervision is available to you, the risk is way lower. I'd give it a shot.
posted by clavicle at 1:26 PM on September 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think it's the INTP qualities that people are probably seizing on -- Introverts are often skilled in reading social cues, which is a great asset to therapy, and the introversion doesn't mean you won't be an excellent therapist one on one. Furthermore, your analytical side is what many clients will be seeking -- someone to help them walk through their problems analytically, in order to better understand them.

Of course you should be conscious of filtering what emotions you express to clients, and to build healthy emotional boundaries when dealing with other people's problems. But those are learned behaviors, and it sounds like you have plenty of people that would want to mentor you through any challenges.

I think the question you need to answer is whether you want to do therapy, and if you're up for the challenge.
posted by freshwater at 1:30 PM on September 7, 2010


My boss has also asked me this and has offered me "hours" in which to do therapy, for example do case management 32 hours a week and see therapy clients 8 hours a week.

This sounds like a great idea. Why don't you ease in on a light schedule per your boss's recommendation? Take a couple clients you know you have a decent relationship with, don't take hard cases at first. After each sessions meet with your supervisors to process what happened and take directions on how to improve. Gradually increase your therapy hours until you're either no longer doing CM work or feel comfortable sending out resumes for therapist positions if doing full time therapy isn't an option at your current job.
posted by The Straightener at 1:36 PM on September 7, 2010


Cultivate that mentorship your boss is offering you, because that's what it is.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 2:13 PM on September 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


It sounds like the experts are telling you to go ahead!

Also, my therapist is probably an INTP (as am I -- the patient) and I think he's great.
posted by callmejay at 3:16 PM on September 7, 2010


Yeah, good advice above.

My only contribution is about the introversion (I'm on the border between E and I)--

Will 8 hours a week of interaction where you have to be "on", plus the time you spend working in the field, be unpleasant for you? Will your boss expect you to do more than that 8 hours in the future?

And just on a general note, what do you want to be doing in 3 years? Will doing this help you get there?

I think that if you really enjoy doing something and are motivated, and you have the basic aptitude (and everyone seems to think you do), then the skills will follow. But if you hate doing it, you're probably not going to be doing anyone any favors in the long run.
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:24 PM on September 7, 2010


Also, please, please take the MBTI with a lot of skepticism and don't make major life decisions based on it. The reason that I only wanted to talk about the introvert/extrovert thing is that it's really the one score that reliably tells me something about you. From Wikipedia:
In 1991, the National Academy of Sciences committee reviewed data from MBTI research studies and concluded that only the I-E scale has adequate construct validity in terms of showing high correlations with comparable scales of other instruments and low correlations with instruments designed to assess different concepts. In contrast, the S-N and T-F scales show relatively weak validity. The 1991 review committee concluded at the time there was "not sufficient, well-designed research to justify the use of the MBTI in career counseling programs".[34]

However, this study also based its measurement of validity on "criterion-related validity (i.e., does the MBTI predict specific outcomes related to interpersonal relations or career success/job performance?)."[34] The ethical guidelines of the MBTI assessment stress that the MBTI type "does not imply excellence, competence, or natural ability, only what is preferred."[28]
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:48 PM on September 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Please keep your concern about being a good, qualified, competent therapist in the forefront of your mind. Your willingness to examine your work will help you do it well. This is why supervision was invented.
posted by theora55 at 6:44 PM on September 7, 2010


I'm currently in training to become a therapist. Based on what I've been learning, your conscientiousness--that is, your willingness to examine and learn from your own behavior--would make you fabulously well qualified for the profession. Go for it!
posted by chicainthecity at 12:53 AM on September 8, 2010


The only way you can become a good therapist is by getting in there and doing it. If you don't like how you're handling something, use that as a way to course-correct and keep going.

Really, one of the main things about being a good therapist or someone in a similar profession is being present with your client. Listening with your heart for what they cannot say and gently walk with them on their path. All the rest will fall into place.

Wishing you the very best of luck in your profession. :)
posted by Mysticalchick at 6:09 AM on September 8, 2010


I called my boss today and told her I'd be interested in starting and I am signed up for training starting next week. We have a crop of new interns starting now, so she said it was a convenient time for me to start. We'll see. I hope my next AskMe is not something like HOW TO GET CLIENT TO STOP CRYING IN THERAPY? lol. Thanks Mefi.
posted by ShadePlant at 11:47 AM on September 8, 2010


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