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Coming August 5th: Enhancements To Your Zoe Experience
Deja Howard, MSW, SISW

Monday, January 8, 2024, is the day that my life began to change and go in the direction that for the past 10 years, I had been working towards. This was the day that I was officially a resident therapist, on my way to becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. But funnily enough, if this was what I was working towards, had the education and experience for, why on earth was I so nervous?! Why did I second guess and question my training? Why did I suddenly become so unsure of who I was as a social worker?

Imposter syndrome, according to the online Merriam-Webster dictionary, can be defined as, “a psychological condition that is characterized by persistent doubt concerning one’s abilities or accomplishments.” This phenomenon is nothing new to me. Through teaching little minds, caring for those on hospice, and navigating behavioral health hospitals, I never found myself coming up short on this experience. However, this opportunity felt different. I was now a “professional guide” for individuals looking to improve their mental health, heal from past traumas, and get back to how their lives used to be, among many other goals. The what-if questions so many of our clients come with started to plague my sensitive mind. “What if I’m too young and can’t relate to their life experience?”, “What if they ask me a question and I don’t have an answer?” or worse… “What if I don’t know what to say and there’s SILENCE?!” All these what-ifs swirled through my anxious brain as I began to see my schedule fill with green boxes indicating a new patient appointment. Thankfully, a few days later, it started to click for me.

One morning, I had my first and only intake of the day and upon introducing myself, I noticed the slightest tremor in their hand. Nerves, uncertainty, uncomfortableness perhaps? Regardless, I was shocked! At that moment it sunk in that I wasn’t the only one who was wondering “How will this go?”, “Will we be a good fit?”, “Am I doing the right thing by being here?” Almost immediately, I saw my nerves start to silence as my confidence started to show. As scary, new, and unknown as this process may be for me, at that moment, I realized that my clients could potentially be feeling double or even triple what I was. Eventually, we got to talking, shared some laughs, and engaged in a naturally flowing conversation. By the end of the appointment, I found myself thinking, “Now was that so bad? All you had to do was just connect with another human being.”

Moving forward, I am sure I will still dance with the thoughts or questions of, “Did I say the right thing in the last session?”, “Did he get my lame attempt at a joke?”, or even, “I hope that I was helpful to someone today.” In addition to the occasional second-guessing, I hope I also remember that I am someone who has been trained to do important work and that I connected with another human being at an important, delicate, and intimate time in their life.

Deja Howard, MSW, SISW

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