Thoughts on Career Progression and Imposter Syndrome

By Sarah Clarke


Sarah Clarke, Psychotherapist

Hello, my name is Sarah Clarke and I suffer from Imposter Syndrome. For those not familiar with the term, Wikipedia can tell you that it was coined by clinical psychologists Dr Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes in 1978 and refers to: High achieving individuals marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud.”

I know I’ve got it because when I first typed that out I missed off “High achieving” because I wasn’t sure if I counted as one of the Guild’s “high achievers”; I mean, it sounds arrogant doesn’t it? Yet last summer I gained the progression award as a child psychotherapist with a distinction, graduating for the fourth time in 23 years.

I have a paid job as a school therapist and I am hoping to submit my MSc this year. Yes, if I try really hard I can call myself a “high achiever” with only a tiny cringe.
So what does it mean to suffer from Imposter Syndrome? I recently attended a large case conference. When the Chair said “And now I’d like to hear from the psychotherapist” my first thought was “Good, a psychotherapist, that will be interesting.” It took me a minute or two to realise she was talking about me.

I gave my report with shaking hands, all the time waiting to be challenged or for that dreaded “But how do you know that?” question, but it didn’t come. I was professional, my contribution was a valuable one and I made a difference.

So why am writing about it here? I was going to say I want to urge others who suffer to get this addressed and knocked on the head but who am I kidding? You and I have done enough therapy to know it is another useful way to talk to myself.

I want to stand tall and make sure my professional voice is clearly and confidently heard, because what I do and what I say in schools and local authority meetings is important and I passionately believe I have messages about children’s mental health that need to be heard.

Unfortunately people rarely knock on the door and ask for us to speak or write. Call me evangelical but I believe I have a responsibility to put my messages out there myself. After the Paris attacks I wrote a piece about talking to children about traumatic events in the news and had it circulated in schools in both North Tyneside and Newcastle Councils.

I recently attended School Governor Training in which I stood up and talked about Attachment. I have also managed to get three articles published in the Telegraph. On each occasion there has been self-questioning, self-doubt and breath-holding as I wait for my critics to respond but I believe confidence breeds confidence and I am getting better. Maybe when I can write MSc after my name it will all be fine.

(Originally published on 27th July 2016 in the Northern Guild Member’s Newsletter – Spring Issue)