3 Career Development Tips for Counselors and Therapists

As a new or aspiring counselor or therapist, it’s imperative that you never settle for the bare minimum. To be successful in this field, you have to invest in constant and never-ending improvement. 

However, with so many different skills involved in this profession, knowing where to dedicate your time and energy can prove to be a difficult feat. 

This article will give you some clarity on how to best utilize your resources in pursuit of growth and development.

3 Career Development Tips

Becoming a better therapist or counselor requires steady and consistent improvement. You don’t have to add new breakthrough skills to your resume every year, but you do need to show consistent growth. 

In fact, as James Clear points out in his book Atomic Habits, if you get just one percent better each day over the course of a year, you’ll end up 37-times better by the time you finish. In other words, the biggest gains are made from tiny improvements that are compounded over a long period of time.

The question is, which skills and traits do you focus on to become the best therapist possible? If you asked a dozen people in the industry to give you their suggestions, you might get a dozen different responses. 

Here’s a shortlist of what we consider some of the most important areas to focus on:

1. Practice Self-Care

You can’t care for anyone else if you aren’t first taking care of your own needs. Self-care is one of the most important investments you can make. This includes proper eating, sleeping, and fitness habits. But it goes a step further than this. You also have to attend to your emotional and spiritual needs.

Mindfulness is an extremely important component of being a self-aware therapist. It’s recommended that you begin each day by focusing on your own thoughts. Whether it’s through meditation or prayer, a morning that starts with self-reflection has the building blocks necessary for a healthy day.

2. Embrace Technology

You might be the kind of therapist who still prefers a legal pad and a No. 2 pencil, but there’s something to be said for embracing technology. There’s been significant innovation in the tech space over the past couple of years, and you could benefit from learning how to leverage different resources.

For example, if you’re pursuing additional training, or if you’re considering growing your practice by hiring new therapists to work for you, a video recording system for counseling training is worth exploring. 

The VALT software from Intelligent Video Solutions is one of the best. They have a simple system that allows you to observe and record counseling therapy sessions within one secure platform. It even has features like live talkback, video tagging capabilities, and searchable databases.

By embracing technology, you’re able to introduce new efficiencies into your practice. It essentially empowers you to multiply yourself and scale your business without having to work 70- or 80-hour weeks. 

Whether through video recording software, accounting solutions, or tools for automating the scheduling of client meetings, technology can help you reach new heights.

3. Hone Your Micro-skills

As a counselor, you should focus on constantly refining your micro-skills. And while you have your own innate strengths and weaknesses, here are a few that we recommend focusing on:

  • Responding. This is the skill of confirming with a client that they’re being heard correctly. It’s a vital skill to develop, as it helps you keep the client confident and verbal.
  • Noting and reflecting. Use this skill to bring out a client’s underlying feelings. This skill is especially helpful when used in the interview stages as a way to flesh out a story and gather more information.
  • Confrontation. This skill helps you increase the person’s self-awareness by highlighting inconsistencies and discrepancies in their story. By making them aware of blind spots, you encourage them to take action.

These are just a few micro-skills – the list could go on. Other skills include attending behavior, questioning, client observation, focusing, influencing, etc. Pick a few that you want to focus on over the next several months and pour your energy into them.

Never Stop Improving

At the end of World War II, Japan was in trouble. The economy was depleted and the nation found itself facing a challenging set of circumstances. And it was the principle of Kaizen that was instrumental in helping it recover (and eventually become one of the world’s most powerful nations).

Kaizen is the philosophy of constant and never-ending improvement (CANI). It’s the science of betterment and refinement. The idea is that nothing is ever finished. Rather, everything is still a work in progress. 

As a therapist, adopting the Kaizen philosophy or CANI mindset will help you continue to grow in your career. Rather than settling or resting on your laurels, you’ll begin to seek out areas where you can improve. 

And if you focus on the aspects like self-care, micro-skills, technology, and niching, your career trajectory will always point up.

Written by Jake Gibson