Graduate Students in Counseling or Psychology almost always feel like they did not learn everything they needed to learn to either take licensing exams or to start their first jobs.
There’s a reason for that. The reason is this: Your graduate program did not teach you every single thing you need to learn to take the licensing exam or start your first job. They can’t. They have more important stuff to teach you during those precious few years of grad school.
When I graduated from The Ohio State University, 7 years of grad school under my belt, I totally felt like “There’s still stuff I don’t know! I’m studying for the national exam and I have never heard of a lot of this stuff on the test!! I don’t know everything I should know about DSM for my first job!!”
Blah, blah, blah. It’s anxiety, it’s feeling a little bit like an impostor. It’s all the usual stuff.
But eventually I got it. Grad school gets you started. It’s not MEANT to teach you “everything you need to know” to take some crummy test or start your new job.
I’ve been in the field 34 years, and there is still a TON I do not know. Seriously.
Here’s what you do need to know:
- In our most recent survey of Southwestern College alumni, 99% of the respondents passed their exams on the first try.
- Did they have to do additional study to take the exam? Absolutely.
- Did they study stuff they had never heard of? Absolutely.
- Will your first job teach you what you need to know to be successful at that specific job, in that specific agency? Absolutely.
That’s how it is.
I could not pass the Counseling Exam this morning if you paid me. Not without studying the materials that are in the Quimby Memorial Library. And I have been in the field forever.
Passing the exam is critical for getting a license, but not relevant to your job or being a good therapist.
It’s just not.
You’ll be fine. Seriously.
And after 34 years in the field, if I walked into your workplace (Presbyterian, or Las Cumbres, or the Recovery Center, or wherever), I would have ZERO idea how to do ANYTHING—they would have to teach me how to do all the intake paperwork their way, how to do Psychosocial Assessments their way, and so on. I would be in no better shape than our most recent graduate in knowing how any given agency wants things done.
That’s how it goes. Licensing exams are made up by who knows who, but they are almost never a good reflection of what you actually learned or REALLY need to know on any job. Weird? Yes.
But it is what it is.
Carry on. Don’t worry about it. You will learn what you need to learn when you need to learn it. That is what your career is for. That is also why you will have to get 40 Continuing Education Credits every two years for the rest of your career, and probably you will get more than that, just because you want to learn more new, cool stuff.
Remember–99%. Not bad. Breathe. It’s all good.