3 Things I’ve Learned After Being a Young Therapist for 3 Years

4 min readJan 10, 2024

A reflection piece.

Photo by Alicia Christin Gerald on Unsplash

I’m a talk therapist. I’m also a 27-year old millennial (born in 1996, yo).

Being a young therapist over the past few years has taught me a few things, but has made me question even more.

For example, is it really true that therapists with many more years of experience are better therapists than those with fewer years of experience? For some time, my own answer to this question was yes: Well, obviously, the more practice you get, the better you get at something!

But recently, I’m beginning to, like I said, question things. And let me be clear that these questions and realizations didn’t just pop into my head out of nowhere — they came to me upon interacting with various older psychologists and counselors — and made me think to myself that perhaps I really have nothing to feel small about as a young, ‘inexperienced’ therapist. Here are some of these realizations:

  1. Experience may matter, but it really means nothing if the therapist doesn’t possess the basics. And the thing is, being in the business for years doesn’t at all guarantee how good you fundamentally are because so many other factors make up a good therapist. Some of these factors (or traits) include openness, creativity, curiosity, patience, flexibility, perseverance (in helping someone), genuine care, etc. But even more important is the willingness to invest one’s psychological space and efforts wholeheartedly during each session, doing so using theories, knowledge, & skills which one continuously aspires to be knowledgeable at.

And in order to do that, the therapist is ideally one whose reason for being in the field goes back to their own wounds and their desire to tend to the painful wounds in others. What astounds me is that for many older therapists, this isn’t the case: Not only do many older therapists seem uninterested and out of touch with their own wounds, but they don’t necessarily approach those who are wounded holistically; maybe because doing so is a conscious choice that’s influenced by how highly sensitive a person is, not a given as one grows older.

Essentially, many older therapists I’ve met bank on the vague notion of them being ‘experienced’ instead of actively navigating the complex interaction of theories, knowledge & skills as they manifest in their responses to clients, which may lead to them to slack without realizing.

2. As humans grow older, there’s a tendency to form more solid opinions, which means older therapists have the tendency to be adamant about the judgments they make- including the conceptualizations they have of their clients ie. the way they read and interpret a case. Though being adamant in this case is mostly good (after all, maybe it’s just another word for being ‘sure’), being adamant can mean that a therapist discounts other explanations and methods of intervention: Why?

Because “I’m experienced, which means I am to trust myself more than other sources”. This gets problematic when ‘other sources’ also think of themselves as being experienced and more credible…

In the end, it’s mostly about the method in which one comes to a deduction about a person’s case; not about the years of experience, you see: Because when everyone is able to back up their stance with a valid set of points, who’s to say the person with more experience’s stance is the most valid?

3. No one therapist is the same (I’m serious).

Having a Master’s, a theoretical orientation, and additional training certificates don’t make all the therapists who have them one and the same.

Therapists are people. People are all different.

No matter how similar the things therapists have been taught at university are, the therapists own personality — and how much they’re invested in living a life that mimics what they know to be truth of well-being from a moment to moment basis — comes through even more and differentiates between what makes a therapist and a good therapist.

In other words, what makes a therapist truly phenomenal is how much they’re in touch with the trickiest parts of their life and personality- which is obviously something totally unrelated to experience.

Photo by takahiro taguchi on Unsplash

To wrap things up, let me use a friend’s story to illustrate what I’ve shared so far: Someone called to ask my friend if they can use their employee benefits to see a therapist at another center, as they no longer wish to see the therapist at the center she works at. Upon inquiry, the reasons they gave was that the therapist was not empathetic enough, didn’t ask relevant questions, and didn’t provide coaching that was detailed enough to be helpful, as if the therapist expected them to have all the answers. And mind you, the center my friend works at boasts themselves as having experienced therapists.

In conclusion, it’s easy to say that young therapists have a long way to go, but you know what’s easier? Slacking, due to one’s ego, unconscious insecurities (many therapists have a deep-seated need to feel superior and above others), and just from getting too comfortable after many years. P.S. Everyone has a long way to go, if you believe in lifelong learning.

Remember, as therapists, our intentions and our personal relationship to the art of healing are a big deal, and so is our passion for providing the best for people — which means it’s important to always question our conceptualizations, to always refine our understanding and practical use of theoretical orientations, and to always keep in touch with our own wounds.




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