Epic Guest Post: Newbie Therapist Esther Dale on Staying Determined

Every once in a while I receive an email that reminds me that the work I am doing is making a difference.  Today I received this from a new colleague to our field, and with her permission I share it in its entirety.  I hope that you will comment on it and show her that she’s not alone:

Hello Mike,

I am a newbie therapist, having entered the licensed profession less than a year ago. Though despite my newbie status, despite the fact that I currently have no clients, no office, no firm job prospects, with a website and business plan that are both still in the initial stages, I still feel that I am an Epic Therapist. Or, at the very least, I am in training to be one!

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know how truly, truly, refreshing I found your blog. In the past, I have spent many, many, many hours skimming one random psychotherapist website after another. More often than not, I get so bored to tears reading the same drivel. I can’t understand how so many of them stay in business. From their websites, I feel that often there is no real spark or passion for their profession, and that they are all trying so hard to play it so safe, that so many psychotherapists end up sounding so cookie cutter. Not to mention the rather pretentious attitude that comes with, “I specialize, well, in the whole DSM-IV. What is your disorder? How may I help you in your disordered state?” Or my personal favorite, “Are you anxious? Depressed? Do you find yourself worrying a lot? Do you sometimes find yourself feeling lonely?” My thinking after reading that is always, “Yeah, I am depressed and anxious just from reading that!” After exhaustive online research, I felt rather alone in feeling like a therapist could dare to have their personality shine online. And then I found your site, and I was like, “Someone who dares to break the mold!” YAY! 🙂

So I have basically spent my free time the past couple of days reading as many of your blogs as possible. I know that you must get many, many e-mails. And I am trying my very best to have my e-mail be worth your time. I am hoping at the very least that what I have to say might spark a possible interest for a blog response.

When I am in my Secret Headquarters, well, ummm, Head(corner) more like it, I feel like anything is possible. I feel the passion and excitement and knowledge for my blossoming niche, Sandplay/Play Therapy. I feel my passion and excitement for my professional focus on the more non-verbal approaches to psychotherapy, for the times when individuals just can’t seem to find the right words to truly express everything that is going on inside of them. Even right now, I feel myself fumbling around for words, and wish I didn’t have to rely solely on words at this moment in time to captivate my Epic Therapist passion. So when I am in my Secret Head(corner) I feel rather invincible. I feel like I can make it. I feel like I have the ability to design the website I want, and set up shop the way that I want. Though the moment I step out of my Secret Head(corner) I am immediately flooded with all these scripts of why I can’t do this. I feel like there are so many “voices” telling me I can’t succeed on my own terms quite yet because I haven’t paid my dues to the system. The current system that exists between many CMH, Non-Profit establishments and insurance companies, make it near impossible for newbie therapists to get a traditional job. From my own experience, I didn’t even qualify to apply for the clinical position for which I interned. When this happened to me, I acknowledged to myself that the current system is way out of joint, and that deep down inside, I have no real desire to associate with that kind of business structure. Though still I feel so many professionals trying to taint my passion for a private practice with their venom of, “Well, you need to walk, crawl, climb your way through Mordor, in order to finally be able to sever your newbie status ring into the fiery pits.” Though I tend to see another option rather than the traditional route: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1yqVD0swvWU  (I love this video, two minutes of LoTR epic-parody goodness.)

In their eyes, I am trying to take a short-cut. Though I am not trying to take a short-cut, merely a different path. I have checked the policies and procedures regarding private practice, and even with my Limited License Professional Counselor (LLPC) status, I am able to set up shop. I have a qualified supervisor and seek out as many mentors as possible; I am constantly researching to gain as much knowledge as possible; I spent much time and effort in receiving professional training in Sandplay/Play Therapy. I feel like I am a blossoming professional in my field. I am determined to have an ethically driven, professional private practice, with a strong niche, and a strong professional voice. Though, every time I think of my “Limited License” status, or I think of all the things I still need to learn, I sometimes feel myself retreat into this defeated status. So I guess my question is this, how does one continue to build up and defend their Epic Therapist status, when so many naysayers want to tear you down because you are forging your own path?

If this sparks a possible blog/e-mail response that would be awesome. If it doesn’t, that is okay too. I know your time is valuable. I am just grateful if you took the time to make it to the end of my letter. Best of luck in all your efforts!


Esther Dale, MA, LLPC


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