Coping with Imposter Syndrome as a Therapist

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So many therapists struggle with Imposter Syndrome, the feeling of self-doubt, the sense that we are a fraud about to be revealed. Me, too! Here are some tricks I use personally to cope.

Imagine coping with imposter syndrome as dealing with a sticky door. Most of us have experienced a door that needs a little jiggle to open. We don’t berate ourselves over the sticky mechanics; we simply jiggle the key and proceed. This pragmatic approach can also be applied to the intrusive thoughts of Imposter Syndrome. Rather than dwelling on self-doubt, I treat these moments as minor inconveniences—acknowledging them, then moving past them. This perspective shift helps me stay focused and productive.

Coping with Imposter Syndrome as a Therapist

Additionally, to address the persistent feelings of “Am I really helping?” or “Why would someone pay me for this?”, I’ve integrated outcome measures and feedback-informed care into my practice. This data-driven approach allows me to objectively evaluate the effectiveness of my work. It empowers me to make informed decisions about my practice, whether it’s reinforcing my methods or adapting them, ensuring I am providing the best care possible.

Here are some other strategies that can be helpful:

  • Be Open and Honest: Connecting with colleagues who share similar doubts can be incredibly validating. Recognizing that someone you respect also struggles with feeling fraudulent can help you challenge and overcome your own unhelpful beliefs.
  • Stop Comparing Yourself with Others: It’s easy to feel inadequate when comparing your internal struggles with others’ outward appearances. Remember, everyone makes mistakes and faces challenges; no one is perfect.
  • Take Ownership of Your Accomplishments: Embrace tangible reminders of your successes and the respect you’ve earned from others. These affirmations can bolster your sense of belonging and validate your professional identity.
  • Is it a Feeling or a Fact?: Use tools from Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), specifically the “Check the Facts” technique, to distinguish between irrational feelings of inadequacy and the reality of your competence and achievements.

Practicing ‘Check the Facts’

    1. Identify the emotion you wish to change (e.g., anxiety due to imposter syndrome).
    2. Describe the situation causing this emotion using factual information only.
    3. Challenge your assumptions about the situation. Would someone impartial agree with your views?
    4. Assess the actual threat posed by the situation. How likely is the feared outcome?
    5. Consider the worst-case scenario realistically. How likely is it to occur, and how could you cope if it did?
    6. Consult your “Wise Mind” to evaluate if your emotional response fits the factual evidence.

Recently, I was featured in an article titled “How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome as a Therapist.” It has lots more great ideas about how to overcome imposter syndrome. To read it, click here.