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3 Things I Learned in My First Year as a Practising Therapist.

As I write this I am wondering whether you are a student reading this considering what your first steps in practice will looking. Perhaps you are relatively new to the therapy profession or you might have been in practice for many years, whoever you are I welcome you and I don’t know about you, but I remember so well being a student on the last day of my classroom training. There was a knot in my stomach and I was acutely aware of the mixture of emotions I was holding:

  • Pride that I had made it this far when at one point in my life it seemed like it would remain a fantasy.
  • Excitement about where my journey would lead to next.
  • Anxiety about what the future would hold.
  • Sadness of leaving the warmth and safety of my fellow students, with whom I shared tears, laughter, the occasional disagreement and a unifying curiosity and passion for the profession and people.

My first year in practice taught me soooooo many lessons. Lessons I take with me as the first of many I would and will continue to learn, so here I share with you 3 of those things that I learned within that first year.

  1. Your clients are your greatest teachers.

As a none driver I can never really use the analogy that ‘it is like driving a car, you don’t really start learning until you pass your test’, but I imagine it to be similar.

Whilst knowing the theory of whichever modality, or the many modalities you work under is incredibly important to help clients navigate their way, there is no book and no lecture that can replace the understanding of the lived experience of the person sat in front of you. I remember reading Becoming a Person by Carl Rogers when I was a teenager trying to find my way in the world and highlighting the quote:

“It is the client who knows what hurts, what direction to go”

It is a quote I come back to time and time again. The letting go of the need to know the answers was and will continually be one of my biggest lessons.

  1. Supervision is your friend.

I genuinely don’t know how I would have found my way through that first year without that special supervisory relationship. That person who sits with a quiet knowing which was so reassuring as I was taking my first steps. The combination of education, reassurance, challenge and holding space for growth continues to be such a fundamental component to my experience.

  1. Embrace the therapeutic community.

One of the biggest things I struggled with in that first year was the solitude.

As a true introvert I thought this would be an aspect of the job I would love and to some degree it is. I enjoy the quiet reflection.

However, when the inner critic comes along it can sound very, very loud without a supportive community behind you. I was nervous at first being a newbie in the profession; old stories that I had spent years telling myself came hurtling out to play. I thought I had nothing to offer those who I had admired and who’s careers I followed.

When I did reach out into that community however, I found nothing but support and I have learned so much through my peers and colleagues, through their social media, publications, lectures and conversation. The very nature of therapy as a profession means that we always have something to offer, no matter what our experience because it involves so much of our selves as unique individuals.

That shared knowledge and support is something I will continue to champion and is an integral component to the NSTT.

If I could say one thing to myself back then sat in the classroom, feeling as though a chapter was ending I would say, “Carlie, the book has only just been opened.”

I wonder what some of your lessons have been, I would love to hear them.

First Steps The National Society of Talking Therapies


Carlie Fairbrother

Carlie is the membership secretary of NSTT, runs a private therapy practice in Cheshire and is the Director of Student Experience at NCHP