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.


Experience is the greatest teacher they say…  Whatever dysfunctions we have going on in our lives (and yes, we all have some) – we come by them honestly.  None of us wakes up one morning and decides to be defensive, destructive, avoidant, etc. for no reason.  We approach life based on the experiences we’ve had and the meanings we’ve made of them.  When those meanings are no longer functional, that’s where therapy comes in.  Together, we explore past experiences and how we interpreted them to identify the sticking points that cause negative results today.  Then, we work together to re-examine those experiences and expand the meanings to understandings that lead to more positive ways of doing life.  The healthy relationship formed in therapy provides a model for the rest of life and offers a safe base from which to go out and change our worlds for the better.

The work done in the therapy room is not effective without implementation into daily life.  Healing requires doing.  We must test out our new meanings, creating new experiences that will cement those meanings in our hearts and not just our brains.  This is the terrifying part.  It can be so comforting and enlightening to have ah-ha moments in therapy.  “Whaaat?!  That’s why I’ve always done that?  Oh my gosh, this totally makes sense now!”  Those insights are wonderful and make for much internal relief and de-stressing.  But then….we have to act “as if”.  If this new understanding is true, what do I do differently?  This is where the terror comes in because it is a great act of vulnerability to go out into an unchanged world with our changed selves and trust that we will be successful.

Sometimes, this becomes a stumbling block for clients.  It could be because we need to do more work on our own internal anxiety before we can take action.  Often though, it is due to confusion about how to actually handle things differently.  Isn’t it normal to need some practice with a new skill before we use it ‘for real’?  This very basic truth about learning is why I believe therapy has to be active.  Perhaps the most common technique is to role play anticipated situations/conversations.  That is an incredibly valuable exercise as we get to form new words and even hold our bodies in different positions than we have before.

I am finding though, that there are plenty of additional ideas for experiential learning.  Last week, I joined a team of colleagues at WinShape to participate in team building exercises with a facilitator who happened to be a therapist.  As we funneled tennis balls through short plastic tubes, held mousetraps in our joined hands, and moved a bowling ball without touching it, I saw so many connections between these activities and the principles that clients are often struggling to implement in their lives:  Creative problem solving, collaboration, trust, believing they can do hard things, believing it is possible to do things differently than before, etc.  Our activities culminated with a climb to the top of what they refer to as the “Pamper pole”.  I’ll let you imagine why it has garnered that name.  Let me just say that I have not experienced that level of terror in a very long time!  Conquering it was the best thing that could have happened though, at a time in my life when I’ve been questioning my ability to rise to the amazing mission unfolding before me.  It gave me absolutely tangible proof that I can dominate and that has already provided energy to move forward with the hard things.  There is nothing like actual success to fuel further success.  The same techniques I used to get through the exercises at WinShape are the same techniques I will use to power through the obstacles I face in the rest of my life.  That is how this works.

I am so excited to bring these kinds of activities back to my clients.  Not just individual sessions, but family sessions, groups and especially corporate workshops.  I have a passion for leadership development and building corporate culture, so this approach fits perfectly!  I do promise however, not to utilize 30 foot telephone poles 🙂



I’ve often described it like standing on the sea shore.  At first, the water is stormy and I’m regularly knocked down by an incoming wave that overwhelms me.  I find myself swallowing a lot of salt water.  Slowly (over years), the water calms down a little.  The waves aren’t as huge.  I’ve developed a strategy for bracing myself.  They start coming in less frequently and I either handle the occasional wave like a champ or I get rusty and am surprisingly flattened by the next one.  There’s no rhyme or reason to which way it goes.  Perhaps it is a reflection of the context of my life – what else is going on, the level of emotional reserve I have in the tank when the wave comes.  This is what grieving feels like to me and when I’ve shared this metaphor with others on the path, they nod knowingly.

That’s not the way our culture portrays it though.  Typically, grief is shown as this linear journey which has as it’s goal – “getting back on the horse” or some similar cliche.  You feel terrible at first.  You’re allowed to have a few good cries but then you’re supposed to start sucking it up and finding something to do with yourself so that you can “get on with your life”.  You can talk about your loss for a week or three but after that – folks squirm, look uncomfortable and try to redirect the conversation to more positive topics in an effort to rescue you from your pain.  This leaves many feeling as though something is terribly wrong with them.  They go into protection mode for their loved ones…not wanting anyone to be worried – effectively painting themselves into a corner of truncated grief.

My grieving path began with the loss of my adoptive mother.  Eighteen years later, I lost my adult daughter.  A little over a week ago, I lost my cousin who was more like a big sister to me.  There have been other losses in between but those are the big kahunas.  I have found one of the most important aspects of healthy grieving is the space and time to tell stories.  I am incredibly blessed with a family that loves to sit around and tell stories about our departed loved ones.  Tears (even years after the loss) are totally accepted.  I speak about my daughter in every aspect of my life.  One of the greatest compliments I’ve ever received is when someone said they felt like they knew her based on how much I incorporate her into my conversation.  I have found that when I make it an open part of who I am, the people around me come along for the ride.  They are comforted that the subject is not taboo – they don’t have to tiptoe around it.  While our culture defaults to silence, I find that most individuals are terribly relieved when transparency is modeled.

Obviously, this topic is fresh on my mind this week and as I ponder my own path, I’m more aware of the grieving of others…The difficulty we face in this culture of doing it well.  My passion for walking this path with others and my recognition of the work as sacred is renewed.  Grieving isn’t just about the death of a loved one.  It can be the death of a relationship, of a dream, of a life stage.  Such passages are significant losses that must be acknowledged and processed if we are to glean all that it has to teach us and to move forward in good health.  I encourage you to embrace this process and enlist a wilderness guide to walk with you!

Self Care 4.0


This is the fourth and final post in a series on the topic.  Return to the first post here

In our last post, I offered a preview of the difficult path to self love.  Even so, it is hard to truly understand the nuances of the journey until you are in the thick of it.  Nevertheless, as you move forward, it is comforting to think back to these discussions, realizing that yes – this is what she was talking about.  It is much easier to endure when you are confident in the normalcy of your experience and the payoff to come.

I mentioned that while you experience the challenges I detailed, there would be a parallel venture that would be vital in supporting your work.  That parallel venture is the art of setting boundaries.  From the beginning, we looked at the challenges presented by the over-full life that comes with a lack of self love.  You forged ahead anyway, sensitive to these limitations but determined nonetheless.  Baby steps are necessary at the beginning…only the most basic self care tasks can be incorporated successfully.  Before long though, growing pains ensue.  The more you get to know yourself, the more compelled you are to make significant changes in your life…to set boundaries.

Boundaries mark what is you and what is not you.  What you are responsible for and what is not your burden to bear.  They provide a portal at which it can be determined what is OK and what is not OK for you.  Do you see the connection to self love?  How can you determine what is you and yours if you do not know your true self?  How do you know what is OK for you if you do not understand your value?  Self love cannot be lived out unless space is created to engage in self care.  This space is created through boundaries.  Fences that protect what is important.  Think about the lawn edging that protects the garden bed from encroaching grass and weeds.  Thus, you have a symbiotic process happening: boundaries are impossible to determine and enforce without self love….self love is impossible to pursue without boundaries.  That combination is what facilitates self care.  Now it all makes sense why self care falls apart so easily!

It is extremely difficult to balance this delicate connection by ourselves.  Once again, we see the need for an objective other to help us continuously monitor this balance in the midst of our crazy lives which seem to conspire against us when we set out to grow.

I hope that this series has been food for thought and that you are equipped to choose your partner/s for the journey.  We’re here to help – individually or in like minded groups.

Self Care 3.0


This is the third in a series on the topic.  Return to the first post here

We’ve established the core issue: self love, and we’ve laid the foundation for the work.  So what’s next?  This series emerged largely from a recent discussion with a friend.  About halfway through the conversation she exclaimed – and all this comes from just trying to take better care of yourself?!  Yes.  It’s complicated.  As she reflected on the poor unsuspecting client who shows up for that first appointment thinking they just need to come up with a better self care plan, she declared that this process ought to come with warning labels!  Consider this post the caution tape that surrounds a work in progress 🙂

Think about an important loved one in your life right now.  When they first appeared, did you have any idea you would love them as you do right now?  I imagine when you first met, there was an extensive process of getting to know them.  Would it be possible to love this person the way you do without knowing them as you do?  Probably not.  Likewise, the first step in this process is getting to know yourself.  The person God created you to be, not just who others need you to be.  Eugene Peterson said, “we are not ourselves, by ourselves”.  That quote captures the importance of our ‘others’ on this journey.  If we are to know ourselves, we need mirrors, but we must seek out objective mirrors.  Many of the people in our lives can be like that carnival house of mirrors – each one offering their own distorted reflection rooted in what they need and want from us.  Hence why we must have reflectors who don’t have a dog in the fight – who can tell us what they see in us without agenda.  We still elicit data from our full community, but we bring it all back to the objective other who can help us evaluate and discern how much of the reflection is us and how much is the bend of the mirror.

Personally, I have found it helpful to reflect on my childhood.  In particular, I try to remember simple moments I spent alone in my own thoughts or in non-directed activity, just being a child and not the manifestation of what adults required of me.  Those recollections have been invaluable in showing me my true heart…the unique characteristics God placed within me that got buried over the years by life circumstances.  There are aspects of this process that are really fun.  Remember what it was like when you first met your best friend and who they are was unfolding before you?  If you go into this process with an open mind and genuine curiosity, this can be the same.  However, it isn’t all fun and games.  There are aspects of you that aren’t so fun to uncover.  Our shadow selves…the parts that shame forced us to bury?  This is an example of how the truth hurts sometimes but there is a difference between hurt and harm.  Pain is usually a necessary component of growth.  What should we do when we have to have a medical procedure done?  We prepare as best we can by completing tasks ahead of time we know we won’t have the capacity to do.  We line up support whether it is transportation, meals or help with chores.  We accept the pain as part of the process – we don’t jump off the bed, pack our bags and go home.  We realize that would be ten times worse.  Afterward, we follow the doctor’s orders, we rest, we go to physical therapy (more pain) and we do the work necessary for recovery.  The process (done properly) – as painful as it is – does not harm us.  It does just the opposite.  It heals us.  Learning to love ourselves is exactly the same!  We get to discover the good, bad and ugly parts of ourselves so that we can celebrate the good, take away the power from our shadow and tenderly care for the ugly so that it can heal.

The other difficult component is the grieving process that begins when we start to see the canyon lying between who we were created to be and the ‘personas’ we created over the years to get through life.  Or…perhaps we’ve been living out a true self but only a small slice of who we are because we figured out the other parts wouldn’t be accepted.  As we look back at decisions, choices and relationships that were lived out from this other place – the assessment can jack up our lives.  We may deny it all at first.  It’s all too much to accept: This dissonance between the me I am discovering and how I’ve actually lived.  Many of us abandon the journey at this stage.  We’re not ready.  Or, perhaps we try to embrace the authentic self without dismantling the masks we so carefully crafted.  This doesn’t work and sooner or later a choice is forced.  Author Mark Buchanan says, “Things that are meant to be must first plunder and displace things that are.”  There is no room for both.  Plunder –  steal goods from (a place or person), typically using force and in a time of war or civil disorder.  This process becomes a civil war in many ways.  Anger at all those who forced their agendas on you and/or anger at self for allowing this, emerges and demands your attention.   The underlying fear and hurt must be processed.  Deep sadness settles in as the old, the untrue, the ‘no longer functional but all I know’ is put to death.  Finally, grace prevails when we stick it out.  Light appears at the end of the tunnel and acceptance begins to dawn as we embrace our authentic self and begin to appreciate the complexity and value of who we are as image bearers of our Creator.  The pain is all so worth it!

There is a parallel venture happening as we focus on knowing and loving self.  In the final post of this series, we will look at that simultaneous battle and how it necessarily supports the first.

You’ve read the warnings but you believe you’re ready for the journey?  Consider contacting us to share your interest in a therapy group related to this topic!


Self Care

This is the first of a series on the topic…

Don’t worry – I won’t bore you with the usual lecture on why self care is important.  I am also fully aware that you could probably recite to me an impressive list of self care tasks that you ought to be doing.  The million dollar question is: despite knowing these things, why are we doing such a terrible job of self care?  We make grand plans but our efforts seem to go off the rails eventually.

I believe the answer is something a colleague of mine discussed with me last year.  Self care is simply a manifestation of the core issue:  self love.  If we do not genuinely love ourselves, we will not have the true motivation to follow through on self care plans.  Many of us may bristle at this idea, insisting that we do love ourselves.  So how do we know if we are fooling ourselves?  What’s the evidence?  I believe there are a number of indicators we can explore:

  • Our relationships are unsatisfying.  Does it seem that you give all the time and everyone around you simply takes?  Is there a pattern of behaviors that you are not happy with but they have continued for years despite your protests?  Our loved ones learn how to love us based on how we love ourselves.  They take their cues subconsciously from our example so if we don’t like what we see in our relationships, we need to step back and take a look at ourselves.
  • Our physical health is suffering.  When we do not love and value ourselves, that lack is internalized physiologically and manifests as legitimate health problems.
  • Our emotional health is poor.  Anxiety and depression are often symptoms of a lack of self love.  If we do not genuinely value ourselves, we are forever at the mercy of what we can get from others.  While we need relationships, when our self worth comes solely from human relationships, we are in a perfect setup for emotional dysfunction.
  • Our automatic thoughts are unkind.  We all have that running commentary in our heads.  Stop and take notice of how you talk to yourself.  Would you say those same things to a loved one?

Awareness is the first step on this journey and it is not unusual for clients to come in with one presenting problem, yet realize that their issues have an underlying source which must be addressed.  In our next post, we will take a look at the foundational principles that must be honored for a successful dive into these deeper waters.

If this discussion intrigues you – reach out to us!  We are always forming therapy groups and this is a popular topic.

Find part two here