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On Being a Student Therapist: Week Four

On Being a Student Therapist: Week FourOne of the “fun” parts of being a Master’s student (fun in quotes because it depends on how you take it) is that you get to be a guinea pig. Not just in your own experience as a learner, but at the mercy of professors doing research, doctoral students conducting experiments, and random investigators from other universities sending out electronic surveys via email for you to fill out regarding all aspects of your counseling life. All of them say participation is completely optional and there’s no compensation, but would be very much appreciated.

Last semester, I pretty much agreed to participate in everything. My helping nature made me think, “You might be asking others to do this someday yourself, and good karma comes around.”

This semester, I am way more protective of my free time and available brain cells.

However, a survey landed in my inbox on Thursday morning, and since the caffeine hadn’t connected with my brain just yet, I decided to fill it out. The first half of the survey asked me to assess my counseling skills within a range of “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree.” As I went through the questions, several stirred memories of experiences I had with clients this past week.

3. When I initiate the end of a session I am positive it will be in a manner that is not abrupt or brusque and that I will end the session on time.

This is one my supervisor and I have identified as a growth area for me. I am conscious of the time in my sessions, and at about five minutes before the end, I say, “We’re about out of time—is there anything else you’d like to discuss?” Two of my clients have waylaid me by bringing up topics that need more than the time we have to discuss—classic behavior my instructors warned us about. I have managed to end the sessions on time, but haven’t always done my best of reflecting content and feelings as I should since I have been trying to be respectful of my time, the client’s time, and the fact that one of my classmates is probably waiting impatiently for me to get out of the office I’m using so they can start their session.

Answer: Slightly disagree

11. I feel confident that I will appear competent and earn the respect of my client.

I am always on time. Early, usually. My planner is my lifeline. I generally check my planner several times a day, even though I’m pretty good at remembering when things are scheduled. One day this week, I had individual supervision from 1-2 p.m., a client at 5 p.m., and a midterm review at 6 p.m. It was mid-afternoon, and I had tucked myself away in a corner office in the clinic to catch up on some paperwork. A classmate came in and said, “Kate, your client has been waiting since 3:30.” I replied, “Uh-uh…must be the other Kate.” (There are two “Kates” and a “Katie” in my cohort. Mix-ups are not unheard of.) I pulled out my planner, just to check…oh, $%@^! It was 3:47p. My client had indeed been waiting twenty minutes for me. I apologized profusely to him and he was gracious, but geez. Talk about conducting seat-of-your-pants counseling—I felt totally unprepared and unfocused, and hoped the videotape was not rolling since my tardiness also resulted in a clinic office change from where I was originally scheduled.

Answer: Moderately disagree (That day, anyway. In general, I would answer moderately agree.)

24. I do not feel that I possess a large enough repertoire of techniques to deal with the different problems my clients may present.

Last semester, my Helping Relationships professor asked a question similar to this on a take-home exam: “Do you feel that employing the core conditions are sufficient for counseling a client, or does there need to be more?” My answer at the time was that the core conditions are necessary in the counseling relationship, but other techniques in addition are essential for really addressing the client’s issues.

It would be great if some of those techniques would come to me when I’m in the thick of a session.

One of my goals this semester was to employ techniques from at least four different theories with my clients. I did fairly spontaneously use the empty chair technique with a client. It went well. Gestalt: Check! I tried the miracle question—wasn’t thrilled with the results—but that was a solution-focused approach. Check! I do use CBT and DBT techniques regularly: Check!

I’ll be pulling out my theories book and refreshing during spring break.

Answer: Moderately agree

35. I feel I may give advice.

So far, so good with this one, though it’s been close a few times this week. We were told that our clients would come to regard us as experts, despite our status as students. I have several clients who are very cognizant of and articulate about their issues…and they really hope I’ll give them a verbal prescription for how to make everything better. I won’t deny that advice is rolling around in my head, but none of it has spilled out of my mouth. Yet. My career is young.

Answer: Slightly disagree

This week, I will send three more clients back into the real world, wishing them well on their academic careers and young adult lives, and thanking them for the opportunity to glimpse into their inner lives and see how I could help.

Next week = Spring Break! It will not be nearly long enough.

On Being a Student Therapist: Week Four

Kate Thieda

Kate Thieda is a Master’s student in clinical mental health counseling at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She doesn’t have a book or professional website (yet!), but those will come in time. Her clinical interests are in dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), working with eating disorders in the post-adolescent population, and integrating yoga therapy and mindfulness into treatment. She can be reached at

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APA Reference
Thieda, K. (2018). On Being a Student Therapist: Week Four. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 1, 2020, from
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Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 4 Mar 2010)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
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