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8 tips for beginning psychologists

8 tips for beginning psychologists

June 12, 2024

Starting to work with patients in a psychology consultation is an exciting experience, but it also becomes overwhelming from the first week. There are so many things to deal with, and so many situations that can go wrong, that if insecurity gains ground we can fall into silly mistakes resulting from anxiety and decisions made in a hurry.

To ensure that this does not happen, here is a series of tips designed for beginner psychologists who are looking for a way to start in this exciting professional field.

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Advice for the beginner psychologist

Take the following guidelines as a way to guide your efforts when applying the knowledge you have been acquiring. It may be that lack of experience makes things difficult, but that does not mean you should throw in the towel just when everything starts. Any professional career has its minute zero.

1. Start building from what you master most

Some people believe that psychology is about understanding people, well, in the abstract. As if a profession enabled anyone to understand and find predictable any form of human behavior. This myth can lead us to make the mistake of trying to cover more than we really know how to do.

That's why, especially when you start, it's good focus efforts on addressing those problems that our training has focused on .

Specializing in these "niches" will allow us to build the rest of our future competences from there, which is interesting because in our first months of work the fact of adapting to everything that means to practice as novice psychologists may already overflow ; let's not say and deal with cases that are totally new to us.

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2. Do not compare yourself with an idealization of the perfect psychologist

If you have become a beginner psychologist or psychologist, it is because you deserve to be where you are: you earned it. What it is about now is to start gaining experience in a consistent manner, making professional practice add quality to the service we provide. It is a process of constant growth in which there is never an ending: in a way, all psychologists are novices, always . Human behavior is too complex for one person to fully understand.

That's why you should not compare yourself to an idealization of what it means to be a psychologist. Do not let impostor syndrome block you.

3. Work your way to build trust

The control of personal spaces is very important to create a therapeutic relationship in which patients feel safe.

If we are nervous, we may tend to use a non-verbal language that shows a defensive and withdrawn attitude, such as crossing the arms, keeping too much distance with the other, or even putting your hands in your pockets. We must avoid this and find a balance between professionalism and proximity. In the beginning, to achieve this, we must avoid committing the errors that I have mentioned and, at the same time, follow the guidelines of active listening and assertiveness .

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4. Keep in mind that your work has a value

Psychology is an extremely vocational field of work, so it is common to see the desire to offer our services for free.

However, we must bear in mind that although occasionally you can do it for free, the work you are doing has a value, since if you can do it has been thanks to the effort and money invested in the training. If the usual thing is that you do not cash, unless you only work with people of very little economic power, the profession is devalued . Which leads to the next recommendation.

5. Your job is not to give advice

Having this very clear is fundamental. If you consider your work as a service that consists of giving "pills of knowledge" for a few minutes about the philosophy with which the other person should live life, you will be doing things wrong. This means that normally it will be necessary to plan about moments and resources that should be dedicated to several sessions with the same person or group. Talking only once with each patient or client does not work .

Psychologists can inform, but when they do, the topics covered are very specific: for example, on how to perform relaxation techniques at home. The part of psychotherapy aimed at helping patients in their deepest and most emotional aspects consists of listening more than talking, and in offer concrete solutions that allow to satisfy those needs.

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6. It foresees possible situations of conflict and their consequences

As novice psychologists, it is very possible that at some point some patient will begin to adopt a defensive or even hostile attitude towards us, judging us out loud.

In these cases, there are two possible options: either this is taken as a phenomenon inherent to what is happening to the therapy and to the problems of the person that emerges in it, so that the situation can be redirected, or taken as a a fact that goes beyond the therapeutic framework and that deserves the cancellation of the session or even the therapeutic relationship, in case it is considered a clear attack on one's dignity.

To not react in an improvised and inconsistent way, it is good to foresee this kind of scenario and to define certain norms that should not be violated so that sessions with a person follow their course.

7. Train yourself to avoid biased questions

It is very important to learn not to ask biased questions that already imply the answer, because in this way the person who comes to the consultation can not express freely. A clear example of this is something of the style: "Do you prefer to ignore your father's problems so as not to leave your comfort zone, or do you think it would be good to help him?" In these cases, we must try that it is not very apparent what would be the answer we would like to hear .

8. First of all, remember that we are human

What happens in the context of the consultation does not happen outside the real world, however much it has its own rules. That is why you should not take these situations as a simulation; a certain therapeutic distancing is necessary so as not to treat the other person as we would do with a friend or to take personal attacks against them; however, beyond that, it is important not to stop empathizing in any moment.

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