This can rattle a therapist’s confidence

Here’s something I’ve noticed that can rattle a therapist’s confidence. Taking on clients that are handed over from another therapist.

It feels different when we take on a client who has seen other therapists before and is choosing to see us, than when we take on a client who is brand new to therapy.

It’s a whole other experience when we take on people whose therapist is ending with them and that’s the only reason they need a new therapist.

Some concerns therapists might have are:

* What if the client thinks the other therapist is better than me?
* That therapist has x qualification and I don’t, how can I meet the client’s expectation?
* What if the client doesn’t like me?
* What if the client tells the other therapist that I am no good?
* How can I be effective with a client who is just waiting for their therapist to come back? (this is common in planned leave situations).

These concerns tend to hit a little harder in early career when you have seen less clients and have not yet established a solid therapist identity. But it also impacts more experienced therapists as well.

Most therapy clients I see these days, have had therapists before as I market to people with recurrent mental health difficulties. I do not take on clients who are in a holding space waiting for their preferred therapist to return from leave. I understand that people want a caseload to return to, but I don’t think it’s in the client’s best interest to set up this arrangement and creates unnecessary problems for the next therapist to manage. It is ok for you to make choices around that too. 

While you may be concerned about things not going well, here is what I have seen happen in this situation.

1. The client prefers you and your style of working. The relationship is a better fit for them.
2. The client takes a little time to adjust but accepts the situation and makes good progress in therapy.
3. The client occasionally misses the other therapist but is committed to working through their difficulty so continues in therapy.
4. The client discontinues and decides to wait for the other therapist to come back or find someone more similar.

It’s important to note that a lot of the above has less to do with your ability and more to do with the client’s attachment style, the way in which their former therapist formed the relationship and the way in which they communicated the terms of the handover.

What you believe when clients are handed over makes a difference and that part is your responsibility.

If you believe that the other therapist is a better therapist than you,  then this energy will enter your therapy room.

Your belief that you are less capable, will lead to you behaving in a way that undermines the client’s capacity to believe that you can guide them and will create exactly what you fear.

It will also be like the ghost of the former therapist is in the room with you, making it hard for your therapy relationship with your client to move in the direction it needs to.

If you get caught up in the comparison trap, it’s important to get back to basics and stop competing with other therapists, real or imagined. It’s important to identify your strengths and focus on those. It’s important to look at the evidence from your work to date about your effectiveness.

If you struggle with confidence and feeling less valuable than other therapists, my instant access offer Kickstart Your Therapist Confidence will help you identify where your blocks have come from and develop strategies to get your confidence on track.

Authentically yours

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