Even Therapists Can Suffer From Imposter Syndrome!

Therapists can experience Imposter Syndrome, the same as many other people do. Things to look out for and a tips to help manage imposter syndrome.

Even therapists can suffer from Imposter Syndrome!


Say What? Surely therapists know what to do to stop those thoughts and feelings associated with Imposter syndrome?


We do have many different ways of helping ourselves to manage worries about not being good enough to help our clients. It doesn’t mean we don’t have imposter-syndrome type thoughts. Especially when we are just starting out.

You might recognise some of these reactions.

1) You have trouble accepting compliments

2) You're afraid that you'll be "found out"

3) You can't seem to acknowledge your own success

4) You feel like you're just lucky

5) You don't believe that you deserve to be a therapist or counsellor

6) You feel like you're constantly in conflict with yourself

7) Sometimes you don't enjoy your work as that inner talk is undermining you.

“The Imposter Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamic and Therapeutic Intervention” article by Pauline R Clance and Suzanne A Imes, was published in 1978 and was the first time the ‘syndrome’ was labelled. It doesn’t just apply to women, anyone can experience it.

Impostor syndrome is that feeling of not being good enough, or that you are a fake and it can lead to stress, anxiety, overthinking and depression. Let’s face it it does feel uncomfortable if a client decides they don’t want to continue working with you. Some self-reflection is useful at those times and can help you develop as a therapist. Supervision sessions can be used to discuss your responses.

What can you do about Imposter Syndrome?

A big shift in thinking is to realise that not everyone will want to work with you and when they say “no” that’s ok. And that you can’t help everyone. When we are working for ourselves we are usually passionate about what we do.

It can be tough to think that not everyone shares that passion and will seek our help. As therapists we know how important our perception is of ourselves and our world. The beliefs formed by nature and nurture influence how we think. Those “shoulds” and “shouldn'ts”, the expectations of family and culture, all feed in to how we perceive ourselves and what we can and can’t do.

The first step to overcoming Imposter Syndrome is recognising that these influences exist and, to a lesser or greater degree, some form of doubt is normal especially when you are new to something. You can track the underlying beliefs that are present when you are experiencing self-doubt and start to address them.

Even if you are an experienced therapist or counsellor you may still experience frequent doubts about your abilities and knowledge. If this happens you can write down all the successes you’ve had with clients. Or remember how much more you know now than you did when you first started.

There are a couple of quick and easy ways of changing your thinking - the “Even though …” and “If/when … then” sentence structures.

Here are a couple of examples:

“Even though I don’t feel smart enough, I know that I have studied hard and passed my counselling/therapy training and know enough.”

“If/when I start to have unhelpful thoughts and feelings about getting things perfect, then I will remember that no one is perfect, including me, and I will improve the more I use my therapy skills and knowledge.”

Sometimes it’s easier to work on these things with someone else. If you need more help then ask a colleague :)


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Categories: beliefs, Private Practice