Why good therapists suffer from exploitation

Barry Duncan has an article in the current Psychotherapy Networker asking, “Why would anybody become a therapist?” The job offers low pay compared to other jobs with similar training requirements. Workers in community mental health are often stretched beyond the breaking point. And as we’ve covered here regularly, employer abuses of therapists are unfortunately common. When even a single therapist pushes back against exploitation, it makes a real difference. But that doesn’t happen very often.

Duncan’s article offers some interesting overlaps with our past coverage here. It can explain fairly well why even the best therapists can be easy targets for exploitation at work.

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Senioritis: The last stretch of hours before licensure

Brodie Vissers / Burst / Used under licenseWe all remember the last semester of high school. A new life chapter was approaching. Our childhood was ending. We would soon experience the freedom of the college world.

It was scary to know that we would be on our own, but we were itching to leave. We knew the quality of our work did not reflect what we were capable of, we just wanted it out of the way. I even remember calculating how much I had to do to just barely pass my classes and coast through the rest of my school year. It did not matter that more difficult times and more responsibility were imminently ahead of us, we just wanted to be done with high school. We called it “senioritis.”

Nearing the end of your 3,000 hours towards licensure can be eerily similar.

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Podcast episode 7: Men in therapy, with Angela Caldwell

Psychotherapy Notes podcastThe overwhelming majority of therapists are women. So are most clients. Men are often reluctant to attend therapy voluntarily. As we discussed in the last episode, even well-intentioned therapists and counselors can make men feel unwelcome simply by how they frame men’s presence in the room. Sometimes, changing how you work to better respond to men’s needs and expectations of therapy can make the process a lot more effective.

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Your first clients: How to feel more at ease

Tyra ButlerMy first six months of seeing clients while in graduate school felt pretty crazy, though at the time I didn’t realize how crazy. When we are on a significant growth trajectory and learning curve, it’s challenging to see through the fog of all the factors involved in adjusting to becoming a therapist. It seems whenever we are in an important and difficult phase of life — potentially transformational — it’s hard to see what growth is actually occurring.

Looking back on those first six months of clinical work has taught me some valuable lessons. When I was seeing my first clients, I wish I had known how to intentionally let go of the pressure I felt to make something happen or employ technique.

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“I’m just an MFT student”

Brodie Vissers / Burst / Used under licenseLanguage fascinates me. As therapists, we use language to reframe situations, craft metaphors, and ultimately instill feelings of hope. We recognize how powerful this tool is, so we carefully select our words when in sessions with clients. If only we did the same outside of sessions.

I love speaking with associates, trainees, and students at various events and settings. I’ve heard about the highs and lows of the journey to licensure, the successes and struggles, the hopeful and (seemingly) hopeless situations. One of the statements that always gets to me is “I’m just a(n) ___” (student, trainee, associate).

“Just.” As in “simply,” “only,” “no more than.” Imagine how quickly you would point out the use of this word to a client, drawing their attention to the potential consequences of viewing themselves in a negative light. Unfortunately, we’re not always good at catching ourselves when we do this.

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