Have you ever felt like other people think you are capable of more than you actually are? If so, you have probably experienced imposter syndrome, a pattern of thinking which plenty of people experience from time to time (Cleveland Clinic, 2021). Imposter syndrome can be defined as the internal sentiment that you are not as intelligent or competent as others hold you to be, causing individuals to feel undeserving of their success or achievements (Psychology Today Staff, 2022). Those with imposter syndrome might feel like luck is the only reason that they have experienced success, and that at any moment, their coworkers, boss, teachers or even friends and family will discover their fraudulent behaviour (Abrams, 2018). Over time, feelings of imposter syndrome can become cyclical, leading to the development of anxiety and even depression due to a feeling of low self-esteem (Cuncic, 2021).
As a professional with counselling training, there are various tactics you can use to help your clients overcome feelings of imposter syndrome by helping them to explore the root causes of these feelings and solutions to feel more confident in their success (Cotsen, 2018). If you are seeking a career as a professional counsellor, read on to discover more about imposter syndrome and how it can be conquered.
The Causes and Triggers of Imposter Syndrome to Note After Counsellor Training
While many people experience imposter syndrome throughout their lives, there can be a number of root causes for why a person might feel this way. During your counsellor therapist career, understanding the causes of imposter syndrome can help you to identify when your clients may need support. Often, feelings of imposter syndrome can be traced back to one’s early childhood or developmental years (Cotsen, 2018). If children experienced heightened pressure to succeed from their parents, whether athletically or academically, they may be more likely to develop imposter syndrome later in life (Psychology Today Staff, 2022).
Additionally, certain personality traits are often associated with imposter syndrome, including anxiety, perfectionism, neuroticism and low self-efficacy (Cuncic, 2021). Direct triggers of imposter syndrome most commonly include starting a new role, whether at work or at school (Cuncic, 2021). For those prone to imposter syndrome, the transition to a promotion or a new position can bring up feelings of self-doubt or insecurity that cause them to feel like an imposter (Cuncic, 2021).
Common Signs of Imposter Syndrome to Look For
While imposter syndrome may be difficult to identify at first glance, it’s helpful to look for a few common signs after completing your counsellor training. Clients experiencing imposter syndrome may tend to ascribe their success to other factors, denying their personal achievements (Cuncic, 2021). They may also tend to be overachievers, ensuring they live up to expectations by going above and beyond (Cuncic, 2021). This behaviour might involve setting hard-to-reach goals or struggling to deal with minor mistakes (Cuncic, 2021). Those with imposter syndrome may also find criticism, however constructive, difficult to accept (Cuncic, 2021).
Imposter syndrome can crop up in many different environments, especially given its prevalence in today’s society (Cleveland Clinic, 2021). As a counsellor, you may see that your clients experience imposter syndrome at school, at work, or even at home and in relationships. Parents may feel unequipped or fearful about the prospect of raising their children, while those in a relationship may feel undeserving of the love and attention they receive from their partner (Cleveland Clinic, 2021). In any situation of self-doubt, or when an individual feels that too much attention is drawn to their success, imposter syndrome could be the result (Psychology Today Staff, 2022).
How to Help Clients Overcome Imposter Syndrome During Your Counsellor Therapist Career
If you are becoming a counsellor, there are many ways to help clients struggling with imposter syndrome to feel more confident. Your skills will be crucial in helping clients to explore their thoughts and feelings and understand the ‘why’ behind the negative self-image they are experiencing (Cotsen, 2018). In order to do so, you can equip your clients with some tools and knowledge to help them reframe their thinking (Abrams, 2018). Asking your clients to put their feelings in perspective and consider whether they are actually helpful, or simply hurtful to them, can go a long way in enabling clients to break the cycle (Abrams, 2018). When a client feels like an imposter, they may also take time to reflect on their achievements, which can counteract sentiments of doubt (Psychology Today Staff, 2022). Lastly, it is important for your clients to refrain from comparing themselves to others (Cuncic, 2021). Comparison makes it easier to feel as though we are not good enough or worthy of our success. By avoiding comparison, clients can focus on their feats instead of their faults (Cuncic, 2021).
With these strategies in mind, you can help your clients to talk through their imposter syndrome to find comfort and confidence in themselves.
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Abrams, A. (2018). Yes, Impostor Syndrome is real: Here’s how to deal with it. Time. Retrieved January 4, 2022, from https://time.com/5312483/how-to-deal-with-impostor-syndrome/
Cleveland Clinic (2021). A Psychologist Explains How to Deal with Imposter Syndrome. Retrieved January 4, 2022, from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/a-psychologist-explains-how-to-deal-with-imposter-syndrome/
Cotsen, B. (2018). Impostor Syndrome Counselling: Coping with feeling like a fraud. City Therapy Rooms. Retrieved January 4, 2022, from https://citytherapyrooms.co.uk/counselling-therapy-london/impostor-syndrome-counselling-london/
Cuncic, A. (2021). What is Imposter Syndrome? Verywell Mind. Retrieved January 4, 2022, from https://www.verywellmind.com/imposter-syndrome-and-social-anxiety-disorder-4156469
Psychology Today Staff (2022). Imposter syndrome. Psychology Today. Retrieved January 4, 2022, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/imposter-syndrome