There’s a crisis brewing in the therapy world, and it’s a largely invisible one. At a time when our society needs psychotherapists more than ever, we’re losing them faster than ever. Beginning clinicians are leaving the field in droves: a recent survey shows that fewer than half of people who graduate from therapy training programs ever make it to licensure. What’s this about? Why are so many emerging therapists calling it quits? How can the seasoned clinicians among us play a role in helping newcomers stay—and thrive in this field? Might it even be part of our professional duty?
These were some of the questions we grappled with as we put together this issue, Being a New Therapist: When Dreams and Challenges Collide. The dream part is genuinely exciting: when it comes to reducing people’s suffering, the unbridled sense of mission and fresh, out-of-the-box ideas that emerging therapists bring to their work is cause for celebration.
But, of course, in order for this creativity and passion to germinate, beginners need to stick around long enough to establish themselves—which is why we’re exploring the many systemic challenges novice clinicians face as they trek toward licensure, including staggering caseloads, low (or no) pay, and a dearth of quality, affordable supervision. We also take an intimate look at the deep sense of isolation and inadequacy many fledging therapists work hard to hide from other clinicians—even supervisors—lest they be seen as lacking, which unfortunately reinforces isolation and contributes to burnout.
What to do? While this issue offers practical advice for new therapists, it’s less of a prescription and more of an invitation to reconnect with what matters most in ourselves as clinicians, no matter how long we’ve been practicing. When relating to newer colleagues, are we able to remember not just our own early struggles, but also the goals and passions that may have been neglected or tossed aside in the process of becoming mature, responsible, respectable clinicians? What if we helped foster those dreams for someone just starting out, or made resurrecting them in our own lives a priority?
We may be at different points on our journeys, but we’re all traveling the same path. By helping each other get where we want to go, we’re nourishing the field of psychotherapy, making sure it remains vital and attuned to the ever-changing needs of a complex world.
Livia Kent, MFA, is the editor in chief of Psychotherapy Networker. She worked for 10 years with Rich Simon as managing editor of Psychotherapy Networker, and taught writing at American University as well as for various programs around the country. As a bibliotherapist, she’s facilitated therapy groups in Washington, DC-area schools and in the DC prison system. In 2020, she was named one of Folio Magazine’s Top Women in Media “Change-Makers.” She’s the recipient of Roux Magazine‘s Editor’s Choice Award, The Ledge Magazine‘s National Fiction Award, and American University’s Myra Sklarew Award for Original Novel.