My First Mental Health Counseling Residency Experience

Validated. Supported. Encouraged. Inspired. Motivated. This is how I felt immediately following my first residency experience. There is something so empowering about spending a long weekend with a group of people who share the same goals & values that you do; we all came from different backgrounds & had different stories, but shared a common goal: to be a mental health therapist.

The weeks leading up to my residency weekend, I was terrified. I dreaded having to role play & use my counseling skills in person for the first time in front of people I didn’t know. I discussed my fears of being vulnerable & getting too emotional with my therapist two weeks prior to going. I packed up my suitcase with blazers & dresses, loaded up on snacks for my hotel room, & headed to the hotel.

The first day, I felt myself get uncomfortable. Here I was, in a group of strangers, being asked to share my perspectives & thoughts. I promised myself that I would feel more open tomorrow, after I hopefully had time to bond with a few members of my group.

Thankfully, a group of us went to dinner on the first night. Dinner turned into drinks by the pool, & I found myself opening up in the less intimidating setting.

Over the next four days, these strangers became friends. Supporters who I can reach out to on a bad day, confidants to share fears & goals with. I learned that I was not the only one who feared being too emotional or coming across as being unprofessional in a session if I felt too much. Every single one of us had fears like this, & it was so encouraging to know that. At the end of the residency, we shared thoughts & feedback with each other. I felt really emotional & vulnerable, to both share feedback & receive it, not just on our counseling skills but also who we are as people.

Some of the very kind words my residency group used to describe me. The things I feared the most as my biggest weaknesses were framed as my greatest strengths.

I feared that my empathy would be a weakness as a therapist, & this group of strangers-turned-friends confirmed that it’s actually my greatest strength. I say all of this in the hopes that you choose to push yourself outside of your comfort zone, & to view some of your perceived weaknesses as strengths.

Thanks so much for reading! & to my residency group/new friends, I appreciate you & am so inspired by you.

Love,

Danielle

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