For Those Who Want to Become a Therapist:

For Those Who Want to Become a Therapist:


We are starting a new blog post series focused on those who would like to pursue becoming a therapist. The plan is to breakdown important questions to not only ask your future graduate school, but to ask yourself.


Now, as a precursor to this post, I want to direct your attention to a post our director, Andrea, has written about what it takes education wise to become a therapist, as well as how to maximize your own therapy experience. She states in “Maximizing Therapy”,


By the time a new therapist graduates from their masters program, they have spent more than 600 hours in graduate level classrooms taking courses dedicated to the art of helping people with life problems.  They have sweated almost 2000 hours on homework and completed 1000 hours of supervised internship.  All at a price tag of over $35,000 (minimum).  Upon graduation, they must work under supervision for at least two years, complete an additional 1500 hours of client service and pass a national competency exam.  When you show up in a therapist’s office, or log on to their teletherapy platform, you are meeting with a highly trained clinician who is there to help you reach your mental, emotional, and relational health goals.


Whew. The journey to licensure is no joke, but is highly rewarding to those who believe being a therapist is part of their calling. Let’s dive in to a few questions to ask yourself as you decide whether this journey is right for you.


Why do you want to be a therapist?

This will be a common question on graduate school applications. Take some time as you are researching different schools to explore what is driving you. 

Every individual enters into the master’s program for a different reason, many times because of their own stories. Responding from a place of healing and wanting the same for others can be powerful.

Alfred Adler was a psychotherapist in the 1900’s. (You’ll learn about him in grad school.) He commented on the nature of therapists who have struggled through different aspects of life and the power that comes from having done your own work. Now it was written in 1928, but there is much truth to what he says.

There must be experience [for the therapists] as well. A real appreciation for human nature, in the face of our inadequate education today, will be gained by only one class of human beings. These are the contrite sinners, either those who have been in the whirlpool of psychic life, entangled in all its mistakes and errors, and saved themselves out of it, or those who have been close to it and felt its current touching them….The best knower of the human soul will be the one who has lived through passions himself. (pg. 13)


Are you open to doing your own work?

One of the best mirrors to your own unhealed areas in life will be your clients. This is why it is so vital that you have explored your own story before sitting with someone else. Your clients are not there to save you, fix you, or help you figure out your stuff. You are there for them. As our supervisor, Larry Shyers, loves reminding us, “It is never ever, ever, ever, ever about you”.

I highly encourage you to continue therapy throughout graduate school. Implement the things you are learning, allow yourself to go on the adventure. Having an openness to growth and knowing that you are selecting a profession that will constantly challenge you is a necessity. 

If not, then when something comes up in session that reveals an area of wounding in you, it is so much easier to stick your head in the sand and push it down. When this happens, we can cause harm. The session inadvertently becomes about us and our own avoidance, thus taking the focus off the individuals coming to us for help.

At the end of the day, you are pursing a profession that has a profound impact on people’s lives. You may be the first person they share their deepest, darkest moments with. You may be the only support they have at this time. Please don’t take that for granted. Realize the impact you have on people’s lives and walk through your own story. Pursue your own healing. 

At the same time, you also have to realize that you cannot save your clients or rescue them from their problems (as much as we wish we could). There will be nights this rocks you to the core. There will be days you wish you could pull them out, especially when they are not a number or a “session” to you.

Continuing to walk through your own story helps you remain present and humble, no matter who may walk through your door. It also creates an environment of authenticity in the room that can be felt (even through telehealth).

Join us next week as we continue to explore important considerations and aspects of learning how to be a therapist.

Therapy 101

So you’ve decided you would like to begin therapy.

Typically, that should be the hardest part. Letting someone in, especially someone that you don’t know, to share your story in hopes of a better life is hard enough.

Unfortunately, “overwhelmed” is a pretty accurate description to how most people feel when they try to find a therapist. If you take a second and type in “therapist in (city)”, you will find hundreds, if not thousands of options.

So, how do you narrow down the field? Let’s say that you spoke to a friend and they gave you a referral, or you found someone on Therapy Den or Psychology Today. How do you know if they are a good fit for you? Below are two good criteria to look at and what Phenix does to meet those criteria.



The Therapist’s Bio

Depending on why you would like to attend therapy or what you have gone through in life, certain therapists will be more qualified to assist you. The bio on the website will tell you quite a bit about who they are and how they operate (hopefully). If one stands out to you, write down questions so you can hear more about their training and experience. 

At Phenix, each therapist took the time to write a detailed bio about our background, training, areas of focus, and how we view therapy. This way, you have a good idea of what to expect before even meeting one of us.

As a disclaimer, certifications and official trainings are great, but don’t base a therapist’s competence on only that. Which leads me to the second criteria…


Have they done their own work?

You can only learn so much in a training that lasts 3 hours or from textbooks in graduate school. The metaphor I use with clients is this: if I was climbing Mt. Everest, I would ideally want someone who had climbed the mountain before, not just someone who read about how to do so in a textbook. I would like someone who had done their research on how to help various people climb the mountain, learned how to help heal different wounds and levels of frostbite, AND had already made the journey. 

By climbing it themselves, they know which pitfalls to look for and which parts will be deceptively slippery.

They also know where to look to see the most beautiful sunrises.

There is a level of competence and humility that only comes from doing your own work in therapy. Everyone needs someone to talk to and process things out with. Ideally, through the therapy process, you learn how to form authentic, intimate relationships so that those are the people you begin to do life with. At Phenix, each therapist has gone down their own journey of healing and has surrounded themselves with people to continue that process. Instead of feeling like any of us has “arrived”, there is an ability to hold the unknown and simply be with whoever walks through the door.


Free Consult

At Phenix, we have a consult time with each prospective client. This is a free 50 minute session where the potential client can ask questions and get to know the therapist before agreeing to embark on this journey together.

When I was searching for my own therapist years ago (before the graduate school adventure), I was wary due to already having had some negative therapeutic experiences. So when I was paired with a potential therapist, I finally asked questions that I had not known to ask before.    

While our director, Andrea, implemented the consult idea during covid, it has remained due to being incredibly beneficial for both us and potential clients. My favorite part about it is that it gives prospective clients a time to ask questions and make their own informed decisions, instead of feeling like they were instructed who to see or stuck with someone. 

So no matter where you go for therapy, I encourage you to look at the above two criteria. Take into account professional training for your specific situation, as well as the therapist’s ability to stay present during the time with you due to having done their own work.

Aggressive Recovery

That’s an aggressive title, isn’t it?

With the world as it currently stands though, the way we recover from the daily chaos, stress, and unknowns has to be aggressive.

It has to be unstoppable.

We have to force through the circumstances of life to find time to take care of ourselves.

We desperately need it.

A common theme in therapy right now is exhaustion. Whether this is physical or more mental and emotional, everyone seems to be exhausted. Like a deep level of exhaustion that we have not known before.

The worse part is, due to how the world is currently going, we feel like we barely have any time to recover from the exhaustion. Days past, then months, then years. We look back and realize we haven’t lived. Just existed.


So how do we change this?


1. Analyze how you are currently recovering on a daily basis. Yes, I said daily. (sometimes hourly) Are there things you do with the sole intent of taking care of your spirit, soul, and body?


2. Find time. Recovery has to be important. The more we put it off and suppress the true nature of what we are going through, the more our body has to hold all of the pain and emotions. At some point, our bodies will shut down from holding too much. Waiting until that moment is not preferable, because it usually includes thousands of dollars in medical bills and a complete stop to our lives.

3. Pick something small. Expecting to drastically change your routine overnight isn’t realistic. That would also add unnecessary pressure to your life. Try just picking one thing that you can add to help with recovering at the end of the day. Below are some suggestions:

Incorporate your body: do something physical! Stretching is a great way to release tension held during the day.

Use your 5 senses: often this will also help ground you if you feel like you are flying on a tornado of life. Incorporate something you enjoy tasting, touching, smelling, hearing, or seeing to provide comfort.

Talk to someone or journal. Sometimes we have to decompress through talking about our days with a loved one or friend. This can help you gain a new perspective or release difficult emotions you may have been holding in.


4. Plan a retreat. I know Andrea and Justin both talked about this a few months ago, but planning some time away from the normal routine can be immensely helpful. This can be a time to intentionally rest, with no to-do list or expectations.


Self care can no longer be optional.

Taking care of our spirits, souls, and bodies has to be a priority. 

We have to fight for ourselves and each other.


The Art of Fertilization Part 1

I started growing a green bell pepper plant around the same time we began posting about sowing. My coworker, Justin, had already done the work of planting the seed. My job was just to fertilize and nurture the little growing plant. Let me tell you though, a lot easier said than done. Plants may have the same basic needs, but each one manifests differently: how much water they need, how much sun they need, how much room they need to grow. My bell pepper plant, Phoebe, almost died, until I learned which needs of hers I wasn’t meeting and how to do so. 

Sound familiar?

Many times, we run throughout life trying to make things work but not knowing how to meet our own needs. 

This is especially true for those in the helping profession. If you don’t know how to meet your own needs, how will you meet the needs of others? This is true for parents as well. If you struggle to identify and meet your own needs, or struggle to have a community around you that also assists with meeting certain needs, how will you do that for your child?

For those of you who have played the role of “helper” or “rescuer” in your family, it is safe to say that you became very proficient at reading others and identifying what you needed to do to please them. However, many times your own needs were shut down in the process.

Maslow’s Hierarchy can actually be a good starting place. I invite you to take some time this week to review the base needs on the triangle and see if you are meeting those in your daily life. Yes, I know those needs on the bottom seem simple, but often we are not even meeting those consistently. If you can confidently say you are meeting those needs consistently, then move to the next level. 

*Maslow’s theory is an adaptation of the Siksika Blackfoot tribe’s tipi concepts along with several other sources not traditionally credited.


Sneakers and Mental Health

Do you have sneakers/cleats you no longer wear or that just never felt comfortable?  Want to avoid adding to our exploding landfills?  Would you like to help provide excellent mental health care to your neighbors? 

Have we got an easy plan for you!  Drop those shoes off at one of two locations during the month of May.  When we turn them in to the agency that collects them, we will receive a small payment for each shoe (every little bit adds up!) that will be added to our scholarship fund.

Drop off locations are:

  1. Firefly Yoga Studio (Ocoee location)

Mondays between 8:15am and 6:15pm

Tuesdays & Thursdays between 6:15am and 7:30pm

Wednesdays between 9:45am and 6:15pm

Fridays between 9:45am and noon

Saturdays between 8:15am and 9:45am

Shoe contributors will receive a coupon for one free class (Limit one coupon per person)

2. Joy Performing Arts in Oviedo

Mondays – Thursdays between 11am and 8pm

Saturdays between 9am and 1:30pm

(Closed memorial day weekend Friday-Monday

Shoe contributors will receive a coupon for one free class (Limit one coupon per person)

If you’ve been following us for any length of time, you know that as a team, we are passionate about service.  Not only do we get hands on in the community, but as a company – we maintain our commitment to service through: 1) Each counselor keeping one client spot dedicated to a person who pays what they can afford.  In this case, the counselor & practice absorb the financial loss.  2) A percentage of net profit is ear-marked for a scholarship fund that will enable recipients to obtain therapy at whatever fee they can pay.  The difference between their payment and the counselor’s fee will be drawn from the scholarship fund.

2020 didn’t go according to plan when it came to reaching our fund goal but we are on track to start disbursing in July of this year!!  To help the process along, we brainstormed ideas for fund raising and came across this sneaker idea which we love because it’s a win-win: not only do we generate funds but we also contribute to good stewardship of the planet.

We have had supporters offer to donate directly to this fund once they heard about it but we had not set up a way to make this happen.  Now we have a link!!  Please know that Phenix is not a 501c3 organization.  With the tax law changes in 2018 which effectively made itemized deductions no longer worthwhile for the average taxpayer – we cannot justify the cost of setting up a non-profit organization for the scholarship fund.  We would rather put every penny directly into covering counselor fees…  That said, if you would like to donate directly to the scholarship fund – just click the link below.  We have set it up to clearly mark the transaction as a fund donation so it is allocated correctly.


True Love?

Valentine’s Day is coming up and the whole month seems to be focused on this concept of love – finding it, keeping it, healing from the loss of it, nurturing it, or even avoiding it.

But what is love really? Where does it even start?

Many times for people, love equals acceptance. We try to earn the acceptance through how we look, how we dress, who we talk to.

For others, their definition of love is intimacy. They then begin the search for that intimacy, that feeling of being known and belonging. This could be through a relationship, but it could also be through a cycling of relationships, porn, movies, and/or books.

For the dictionary, it is a “feeling of deep affection”.

But what if love is so much more?

I have felt that feeling of deep affection before. I have even used the word “love”. However, the relationships did not last. There was a common theme though. I was great at trying to make them happy. To appease them, to make sure they would accept me, love me.

But I didn’t love myself.

That lack of love towards myself became the breeding ground for choosing individuals to date who were not healthy, the breeding ground for not taking care of myself and my body, and for desperately seeking others’ approval and love because I had none to give myself.

The foundation of a healthy relationship begins with you.

We can’t love others for all of their mistakes, imperfections, and habits, if we look at ourselves with disdain and criticism.

Now, I’ve heard it said multiple times: “Well I love others easier than I love myself.” Or “I can love others but I can’t extend that same grace to myself.” This is where I would challenge you to look deeper. Peel back another layer of the onion and ask yourself “why?”.

If being able to love ourselves is not the foundation, there are usually deeper reasons that we are able to extend that grace to others, but not ourselves. These deeper reasons can be wanting others to accept us and love us, not believing we are worthy due to a myriad of reasons, or countless other options. However, if we search for a relationship to heal those deep wounds or fill those gaps in our lives, to prove to ourselves that we can be loved, the relationship will always fall short. Because at the end of the day, we are trying to use others to fill a hole they cannot fill. To meet a need they cannot meet.

So the question really becomes: “How, this February, can you begin the process of loving yourself?”

And if you believe that to be futile or even impossible, the question is then: “Do you believe you can be loved?”

That answer, even if there is hesitation or if it is “no”, can open a door to a journey of healing that you may never have thought possible. Because here is the bottom line: even if you found a ‘perfect’ person, who miraculously never made a mistake and was able to love you in the most selfless way possible, if you do not believe you can be loved, you would not be able to accept their love. It’s one of the reasons we sabotage good relationships, why we start fights when nothing is wrong. Your view of yourself is the foundation of what you bring into the relationship.

It is a process to begin understanding how to love yourself and it is different for everyone. To start, make a list of things you enjoy. Break it up by your five senses and write about 20 per sense. For example:

Sight : the ocean/water, trees calmly blowing in the wind, a punching bag, my cats sleeping, my tennis shoes, a dance studio, a sunrise, etc

Cultivating this list will take some time. It can also change over time. However, the beginning of loving someone is knowing them. So this February, take some time to get to know you. What you enjoy, what makes you happy. Who knows, you just might like who you find.

Service…it’s who we are!

How did we end up in downtown Orlando, in the oppressive heat during the middle of a pandemic?

Well.  Phenix Counseling was founded with a commitment to service.  While we recognize the value of the knowledge and skill we bring to the table, expecting that the worker is worthy of their wage, we have always been mindful of the fact that access to quality mental health care is a major problem.  In response, Phenix committed to funneling 10% of profits into a scholarship fund to provide care to those who cannot afford it.  Our regular fees were set to make services accessible to working individuals and in the future, student interns will be acquired to provide quality care for even less.  Additionally, every Phenix counselor always maintains one community client who pays only what they can afford – as their way of giving back.  However, when COVID blasted on to the scene a mere three months after the group practice launch, our grand philanthropy plans had to be set aside as the financial focus became simply survival.  Still….our hearts broke as we looked around at the fallout and wondered what we could do to be there for our community.  Despite our own personal financial fears, all three of us agreed to set aside our fees for one week (March 8th – 14th) to go toward a special COVID fund that would be utilized to assist community recovery once the stay at home order was lifted.  Justin had visions of handing out food…I thought perhaps gas cards to help folks drive back to work after prolonged furlough.  As everyone knows, things have not been that simple.  Here it is July and the virus has not lifted.  In fact, the numbers are worse than ever.  That magical moment of “getting back to normal” has not arrived.  I began to ponder what we should do with the money we had earmarked.

It was during that questioning when I came across this video:

I knew Eric!  He was the sweet young man who had contacted me a couple of weeks before I left for Greece last year because he wanted to surprise my student with a proposal 🙂 .  I also knew of the organization he led and the good work they did.  Something clicked.  Here was a mission we could be confident supporting.  We are holistic providers; we don’t just attend to our clients’ mental health.  We recognize that everything is connected: body, soul, spirit.  That’s why Justin does adventure therapy which provides physical challenges, Caitlin utilizes dance and I am currently finishing up a certification in yoga.  What better alignment with our commitment than to contribute to the basic physical needs which directly affect a person’s mental and emotional health?  I brought the idea to the team and they enthusiastically agreed…but I felt convicted that this wasn’t just to be a monetary thing.  Justin had challenged us from the very beginning to be “boots on the ground” in our community and SALT was calling out for volunteers.  So, with no small amount of discomfort, we signed up to serve.  We have minimized excursions and worn masks consistently throughout the debates.  It was intimidating to consider serving a population who could reasonably be expected to have COVID exposure.  But if everyone was hindered by that concern, then who would serve?  How would they get the care they so desperately needed?  Once again, our decision to go fully virtual was a blessing as we could confidently take on this mission without the concern that our clients might be negatively impacted.

That’s how we ended up in the Florida heat on July 5th, organizing clothes for handing out to friends (what SALT calls the folks living in homelessness who show up), taking requests for clothing needs/sizes, talking with these friends and managing the inevitable conflicts brought on by heat and emotional/mental distress.   I cannot recommend this mission enough!  It is sobering to think about how exhausting it was to handle four hours of serving downtown while our new friends live in its elements

Therapy is an investment.  For many, it is an investment made with sacrifice.  We think it is important for Phenix friends to know that when you invest in your health with us, not only do you (and the loved ones connected to you) benefit, but your community benefits as well through our commitment to pay it forward!

If you would like to follow our lead, SALT is always in need of volunteers.  You need no special skill or talent (though barbers/hairstylists are sorely needed)…just a willingness to show love.  If you want to be of help but have health vulnerabilities – consider preparing lunch for the friends and volunteers and simply dropping it off on one of the service days.

Here’s the link for info about volunteering

Here’s the link for info about providing a meal