11 Things You Outgrow By The Time You’re A Seasoned Therapist

I graduated in 1999 and left therapy school grabbing life’s balls with one hand, while caressing Irv Yalom’s Momma and the Meaning of Life with the other. I was excited to embark on a therapy career. Problem was I totally sucked…

image enthusiastic counseling grad via TalkTherapyBiz

This isn’t me.


Sometimes it’s just your turn to be ‘that therapist.’ The good news is we’ve all been there.


1. Believing people don’t create their reality

Contrary to popular belief, life doesn’t just happen to us without our input. We’re active participants in our successes and our failures. Psychology can be hella confusing and it takes a lot more than your two-year Masters program to integrate this one. But “there’s very few victims in this world” said my amazing clinical supervisor, Reevah Simon.

Boy, was she right.

2. Leaving your sense of humor out of the therapy room

Of course you’re a professional, but it’s therapy, not heart surgery. To paraphrase some former president, it’s the relationship, stupid. Forgoing personality is like hanging a shingle above your office that says “Pompous Ass” (preferably after your name, and before your credentials).

3. Feeling sorry for people

(Good Gawd, how I sucked at this one.) Not holding your client accountable for changing does nothing to help him move forward (in fact, you’re probably reinforcing that he’s a ‘victim’ and enabling him to remain stuck).


4. Not admitting you favor certain clients

In the real world it’s called “identifying your target audience.” If you feel especially guilty about this one, make sure to have just one kid.


5. Saying insurance companies don’t…

  • suck the life out of you
  • frustrate your clients
  • get in the way of therapeutic work
  • by and large, care less about the mental well-being of their members, and sure-as-shit test yours
  • exist as a necessary evil, and benefit many people greatly (just not your therapist — Okay, rant’s over :P )


6. Never really knowing how good (or bad) you are

Let’s face it, some of you are (a bit) entitled. We can (largely) blame your institution for stroking your ego. After all, if they told you you’d struggle like hell, would you have stayed? Exactly.

Living in the university bubble is nothing like living in the real world. So buckle up, get one helluva great clinical supervisor, and if you haven’t already, hightail it to your own therapist.

7. Dutifully practicing rules, laws and ethics, but never trying the MSU (“makin’ shit up”) Approach

The more I practice psychotherapy, the more I realize some of the traditional theories, interventions and rules don’t always make sense, or help get clients off the couch quicker. Sometimes you gotta fire up the creative, and think outside the Freudian box.

The problem with telling you this is that some of you will actually go out and try the MSU. And though I’m probably not doing a good job explaining (good thing that’s not the job of a therapist), understand you have to know the rules in order to break them.


8. Having love in your heart as the only way to deal with difficult clients

I know — duh? — but rooks don’t know just how difficult it is to summon heart and compassion when your client projects crap at you hour after weary hour. There’s a difference between real love and pedagogical love.

Only when you’re seasoned (and skilled at screening, and later, referring out) do you know that we all play to a hidden audience of Mom and Dad during interactions, and your client’s insults and not-so-subtle sighs aren’t meant for you at all.

9. Treating “treats” as something your client just puts in her mouth

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, but food can reveal a lot about how your client views the world, and how she feels about nurturance. Try putting a bowl of chocolates and some water bottles in your office and see who voraciously gobbles them and who refrains (if you don’t work with teens, this may not be entirely relevant).

~Does your client ask before taking?

~Does he go for it with gusto?

~Do he decline out of politeness, fullness, lack of interest, or because he’s emotionally withholding?

How we handle food is fascinating on many psychological levels.


10. Trying to be popular

(Not that I know.) Remember clinical incisiveness is compromised when you let certain rules slide.

Like that time you worked in a group home and one of the teens promised to go to every class and not throw a chair at the teacher the next day if you “please, please, please don’t tell anyone you saw me making out with my (adult) boyfriend after school today, K?”



11. Drinking a glass of Chardonnay after a long day

Just kidding.




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Thank you,


P.S Gratitude to this post for inspiration.


About Linda Esposito

Hi there! I'm an Anxiety Saboteur and the creator of the soon-to-be retired TalkTherapyBiz.com. If you want to join me on Wired for Happy click this link to subscribe for details.

4 Responses to "11 Things You Outgrow By The Time You’re A Seasoned Therapist"

  1. Karen OlsenNo Gravatar says:

    Hello Linda,

    I’m new here, and have always been fascinated by the inner-workings of therapy. I’m deciding on an advanced degree in counseling or nursing. Anyway, I’d love your clarification about number 7. I assume it’s tongue-in-cheek, but I had a not so great experience with a therapist awhile back and now I’m wondering if a lack of solid foundational training was the reason we didn’t jive.

    Just curious.



    • CarrieNo Gravatar says:

      Maybe I can help Karen. MSU to me may mean driving to my client’s house for a session even though my agency discourages this; bringing McDonalds to a teen who refuses to talk during a school session; taking a walk around the block if the confines and noise level of an office is too intense. Hope this is beneficial!

  2. Linda EspositoNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Karen–

    That’s a tough decision you have there. Basically the “MSU” is an approach that a therapist will use in the rare case when traditional or popular interventions are not resonating. Therapy’s a people business and people are unique. MSU was described to me as “those times when you’re throwing out ideas and interventions against the wall in the hopes that one will stick.”

    Sorry — probably didn’t explain that too well :P

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