This blog post was written by Amanda Serrano, our Clinical Director.
The motto of psychotherapist everywhere, but what does it really mean?
All clinicians know that we never go into a space intending to cause harm to anyone, but what happens when we are not present to our therapeutic selves in session, what happens when as therapists we come into the space without getting enough sleep, feeling hungry, feeling angry about a personal issue or stressing out about our issues? How does that translate into the care we are providing? Something I have noticed over the years is that a majority of clinicians, particularly clinicians who got into this work to give back because some clinician in the past made a positive impact in their lives, develop superhero syndrome.
Now, superhero syndrome is what I call it, it means wanting and trying to be present to EVERYTHING and EVERYONE without being present to yourself as a clinician. Before I get into the dangers of superhero syndrome, I want to discuss the beauty of it. Clinicians are superheroes for clients. Clinicians have the power to talk a person off that cliff, they have the ability to uncover strengths those clients never knew they had within them and nurture them and walk with those clients to a brighter future.
As we teach our clients, you have to come first, without fulling your bucket first, you cannot be present to everyone else. The problem with a lot of new clinicians who are energetic and ready to throw themselves into the work and help everyone is that a lot of new clinicians forget to fill their bucket, and the mental health system is saturated with persons who need to be seen that a new clinician can be given 2-3 distinct jobs in their respective agencies because there is such a need, and without being vigilant about self-care, a clinician can easily start to burn out when they are only beginning.
Now superhero syndrome also means that clinicians forget that all superheroes have a version of kryptonite that will affect them. That kryptonite is different for each practitioner. Examples of clinical kryptonite are: overconfidence, over-extension, boundary blurring, cultural encapsulation and transferences. These can show up in each clinicians work, and it takes a great deal of mindfulness reflection and support to stave these clinical kryptonite. This work is a consistent practice. And often a topic of clinical supervision.