In 2020, there was a significant rise in Google searches for how to become a therapist. The pandemic has led to many seeking a career change, whether that be due to having plenty of time to reflect or job loss has given a reason to finally take the plunge and do something more rewarding.
For those looking how to get into therapy, there is a plethora of information online regarding the degrees required, internships to undertake and how to eventually apply for a license to practice therapy. However, before taking both a financial commitment and many years of training, you need to know if a career in therapy is right for you.
While the wages may seem tempting and psychology a personal interest, there are many other traits a good therapist needs to be successful. With the right traits, even with extensive training, you may be doing more harm than good to your patients, terrible for their mental health and your reputation.
You Like People
It’s not enough to just ‘get on’ with people. You need to have a real passion for talking to people for lengthy periods, even when you have only just met them. These exchanges should leave you feeling energized and you get a thrill from meaningful and emotional exchanges.
Therapists will spend their days with back-to-back sessions with other people and if you don’t enjoy this, it really isn’t the career path for you.
If your friends already tell you that you’re a good listener, this skill shouldn’t be taken for granted. It’s one thing hearing what people are saying and it’s another thing to really comprehend what is being said.
While many people believe that the true skill of a therapist is advice, really it’s being able to listen and steer a conversation in the right direction to allow a client to come to their own discoveries about themselves.
Being a therapist can be similar to being a detective. Not every patient will be completely candid with you and may hold things back or twist the truth of certain elements. You will need to be able to analyse everything that is or isn’t, being told to you and piece together the clues about a client.
You will also need to be able to identify character traits and not just have an eye for detail, but an excellent memory for retaining it too.
Being An Altruist
Do you like helping others, are you that person who will always drop what they are doing to help a complete stranger and feel elated about it afterwards? After all, the main aim of a therapist is to help others.
If you have no interest in helping strangers, then you will most likely lose interest in a career in therapy over time.
You’ve Been There
While not essential, having your own personal experience with mental health issues can help you better understand what a patient is going through and really relate to them.
Many patients are likely to trust their therapist more and open up to them easier if they know they have been through a similar experience to them as well, which will lead to your overall success.
For specific conditions, such as eating disorders, this can really help a patient to connect with you if you decide to specialise in an area you have been through yourself.
Be Part Of The Change
Even in this modern world that has such a huge focus on mental health, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done. Stigmas are still attached and many are reluctant to seek help.
Actively being part of the change should be something that inspires you to take up a career in therapy.
You’re Thick Skinned
Over time, you will spend your working days listening to various stories from people’s lives and many of these are traumatic, horrifying and even disturbing. You need to be able to sit through people tell you about the worst point in their life, and you can’t show your emotions if you are feeling uncomfortable yourself.
You need to be able to cope with this or know when you need to get professional help yourself if you aren’t coping. Many therapists see a therapist themselves to help them through this time.
While most of your clients will be polite and grateful for your services, you have to remember that you will experience some who aren’t. You can’t take this personally, after all, these people are suffering from mental health issues and you need to understand not just how to help them but also that they aren’t personally attacking you, even though it may feel like it sometimes.
While becoming a therapist can be incredibly rewarding, like any job, there are downsides and there will always be days that emotionally and physically drain you, you need to be able to withstand these.