Okay so I don’t know who started this rumor and I’m sorry to have to break it to you, but therapists do not have the “perfect all put together life”. In fact, if anyone knows of a secret to being exempt from mental health, please let me in!
As therapists, we are in the helping field; our job requires us to listen to others’ problems and support them navigate life. Woah talk about high expectations huh?
As I think back to my journey of becoming a therapist, there are a few things I wish that graduate school would have taught me. My master’s program did a great job on teaching me client care, theory, law, and ethics (of course) and more but all these factors are learned to benefit our clients, and we can get so busy attending to others that we forget about ourselves in the process.
We can’t give our best to our clients if we are not at our best. With that in mind, you know what I wish would have also been incorporated? Tools to navigate my own stress, skills to utilize in the workplace, how to recognize my own strengths, and the fact that we need community in this field.
So back to my question, do therapists go to therapy? Although it is not necessarily a requirement, I personally think part of being a great therapist is knowing what it’s like to be a client. Imagine being able to genuine relate on what it feels like to be on the other side of the couch/screen when your client comes in for the first time feeling anxious and uncertain. To be able to say- I know what you’re feeling, I’ve been there too.
Let me let you into a little secret... interventions are great and helpful. But you know what I’ve seen over and over that truly makes a difference? The therapeutic relationship with the client, and to show up for our clients, we have to show up for ourselves also.
Here are my lasts thoughts, if you are starting your journey as a therapist know that the first few years can be tough! Make sure you reach out for support as necessary, by joining a group, seeking your own therapy, building community. If you have been in the field for some years, the same still applies because we know burnout and compassion fatigue is real.
If you are looking for a group, I know of one that will be starting very soon! In fact, I will be co-facilitating it and discussing the tools I wish I would have had. Check it out on our K&B website, and then you can also say “this therapist goes to therapy”.
All the best,
Okay, let’s have a moment of honesty. For the past few years, I have had a similar New Year’s resolution every January. It has been identical because my plans to create this new change and habit in my life has seemed to fail. Some resolutions have lasted longer than others, but most often not permanently.
Let me paint you a picture of what this cycle looks like. The new year begins, and I feel motivated and ready to make some changes. I go hard! I start working out daily, I change some eating habits, and then…. I start slacking off. The motivation ends and I am back to habits that make me feel horrible.
So, I have been thinking, what am I doing wrong? Why can't I seem to stick to my goals and achieve them? Why does it feel like I'm working so hard but not getting anywhere? I’ll let you into a little secret, it is all about how you plan for your goals. You can have all the motivation in the world, but if your goals are unrealistic, not specific enough, unable to be measured... well then, there’s a high likelihood that these goals will fall off and disappear.
This year, I want you to succeed. I want to encourage you to try something different and take notice of whether the outcome changes. After all, it is a new year with plenty of new opportunities. The truth is, we can make changes at any point and if the new year happens to make you feel inspired, well then let's do it!
Allow me to introduce you to SMART goals.
SMART is the acronym for a tool to help in guiding your goal setting.
Specific- Make sure your goal is clear and lists what needs to be accomplished
Measurable- It is important that you can track your progress (this will help with motivation)
Achievable- For it to be successful, your goal must be realistic and possible to attain
Relevant- It is best if your goal aligns with your values and is meaningful to you
Time-bound- The plan is to achieve your goal, so set a deadline to keep yourself accountable
Here is an example of two goals. Can you guess which one is the SMART goal?
Example 1: I want to go back to school next year and get a degree.
Example 2: I will start community college as a full-time student by enrolling in four general education classes for the Spring 2023 semester at Los Angeles Community College.
If you guessed the second one, good catch!
Now that you have a SMART goal, you can break down the steps to achieve it.
Before you head out to start creating your own goals for 2023, I want to remind you that "failure" is part of the process. Although this is a practical strategy, I also want to acknowledge that it might not be as black and white when barriers are present. Give yourself grace and know that any progress is a step in the right direction.
I hope this year brings you all the growth and happiness you wish for!
- Dilia Morales Monroy, MA, AMFT, APCC