You just graduated. You are burning bright with a fiery passion to change lives and start your career as a speech therapist! Go, you! Now bookmark this post and set an alert for yourself to check back here in one month. Your CFY is a magical time but it is gonna get rough. You are not alone!
This blog post is for you when you are in the thick of it. Because there will be a day where you feel down and worn out.
I am offering you some advice. I just know as a CF, there were a few times I was feeling overwhelmed and went looking for a blog post like this to no avail. This is definitely one of those times where you can take what you like (or what you need) and leave the rest. Here are just a few things to keep in mind as you navigate this incredibly exciting and challenging new adventure:
15. Connect with your tribe.
There is a facebook group called Pediatric SLPs. Go find it. Then, come follow me on instagram (@SpeechyThings).
14. “Comparison is the thief of joy.” -Theodore Roosevelt
Don’t compare yourself to other therapists. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses.
13. If you make something – LAMINATE IT.
And if you’re using velcro- put the rough side on the pictures so it can be used on felt boards later if you want.
12. ASK QUESTIONS.
You are clinical fellow. You should have a bajillion questions every day and that’s normal. It’s almost a guarantee that no matter what walks through that door… you’ve never treated a kid just like that before. Try to find the answer yourself but if you can’t, ASK!
11. “She made a promise to herself to hold her own well-being sacred.” -unknown
Try not to take your work home. You need to relax. Your brain is going to be a big puddle of mush for the better part of this experience (and beyond) so let yourself binge on Netflix now and again (and again).
10. Your best is enough.
All you need to do to be successful each day is make this session a little better than the last. If you can do that, you can be proud of yourself. I often wondered how much more progress my patient might make with a more experienced therapist. We will never know. But as long as you give that kid 100%- you are doing your job.
9. Grad school introduces you to the tip of the iceberg.
It does not (and cannot) adequately prepare you to meet the needs of every kid on your caseload and it’s no one’s fault. Birth by fire is necessary. Do your best to fill in the gaps.
8. Write it down.
Write down the things you’re learning. It helps you process and encode. You can look back later to see how far you’ve come.
7. “If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.” – Jack Kornfield
You are most likely going to have a family complain about you. It happens to everyone. But you will also have families who LOVE you. Learn from them both and don’t take the first one personally. Their child is the most precious thing in the world to them- it’s not meant to hurt you. We can’t all be perfect matches for every kid.
6. Think outside the box.
If after a few sessions with a really tough kiddo you are still having a difficult time- figure out what kind of support they need from you that they are not getting. Maybe they need visual supports. Maybe they need some sensory input so they can organize. Talk to your supervisor.
5. “You is kind. You is SMART. You is important.” -“The Help”
Just remember that there was a day when the words “speech hierarchy” and “Brown’s Stages” meant nothing to you. You are smart. You know LOTS. Don’t forget that. Most of your families are totally unaware of what’s fully going on with their kid, so you at least know more than them and can help guide them through it.
4. Fake it ’til you make it. (Your confidence, that is.)
If you don’t feel confident in your answer to something- don’t keep talking in circles around it. Make your point quickly and, if needed, let the person know that you are going to look into it and get back to them. Also, try to remember that not everyone is a naturally friendly person. It doesn’t mean they think critically of you. It literally might just be their face. Be confident in your response and don’t let it get to you.
3. You will have ups and downs.
Even therapists I work with that have been at it for 15 years (and who are AMAZING) go through slumps where they feel ineffective. Just make note of the ups so you can remember those happy feelings. It will get tough at times but remember another peak is around the corner where something will click for your kiddo and your heart will explode with joy.
2. “Living is like tearing through a museum. Not until later do you really start absorbing what you saw, thinking about it, looking it up in a book, and remembering…” -Audrey Hepburn
Know that the more kids you treat, the more you will see patterns and get a sense of the “big picture.” It’s okay to feel lost. Trust your training and lean on your colleagues to be sure you are on the right track. You will navigate these waters together. You’ve got to work on faith for a while until you are backed by experience. Everything is scary until you have a few under your belt. (During my CFY I was terrified of treating R and now I’m like “pffft” no problem- here is some help if you need it.) You’ve got this!
1. You can do this.
Remember the thousands of therapist who have been where you are right now. Your CF supervisor? She’s been here. Me? I’ve DEFINITELY been here. Barbara Hodson? Michelle Garcia Winner? Your favorite clinical director? THEY HAVE ALL BEEN HERE.
Everyone was once brand new. Everyone.
Everyone, at one time, didn’t have a clue what they were doing. But they learned from their mistakes, sought answers, perservered, and
got better and better until they got great.
That will be you too.
There you have it. My best advice and a big ol’ virtual hug.
The paperwork sucks. Sometimes the parents are difficult to deal with. Sometimes the kids spit at you and hit you. It will be really hard some days, and then it will get easier. Then it will get hard again. Just know that eventually the hard days get less frequent and less intense- so push through!
Just remember… how many people go to work and actually experience *joy*? Not just being happy at work- but feeling heart-warming joy?
Also remember, there is a whole community of SLPs who are here to help! One way to ease your burden is to become one of my VIPs. I send out short, weekly emails with tried-and-true therapy tips, access to my freebie library, and exclusive discounts. You will become one of my inner-circle and I would be thrilled to have you!
Come say hi on instagram sometime too if you’re ever feeling lost! I really do LOVE chatting with new grads and am constantly hosting Q&A sessions. Instagram is also where I post a lot of my speech therapy tips and motivation!
You’ve got this!