Fighting Feelings of Imposter Syndrome During Fieldwork
Just last week, I completed my first Level II Fieldwork at Prototypes: A Program of HealthRIGHT 360! I was placed with the agency’s Adult Full Service Partnership (FSP) Program and Children’s Program where I was able to provide individualized occupational therapy services to clients across the lifespan who struggle with mental health concerns, needs, and barriers.
This was my first full-time fieldwork placement. I was expected to be there every day from 9:00 AM to 5:30 PM, whereas my previous Level I Fieldwork placements did not require me to come as often. Although I had heard amazing things about Prototypes from previous fieldwork students, I knew that things would be different given the pandemic situation, and also just that everyone’s experience is different. I was feeling anxious about taking on telehealth services, potentially meeting clients in-person, documentation, and more. I wasn’t sure how I would fit in with the team or if I was going to represent OT well enough in the mental health field. The imposter syndrome was real. However, after my first few weeks of fieldwork, those feelings of impostorism gradually began to fade away. I was able to build my confidence to thrive in what turned out to be a beyond-stellar fieldwork experience.
My clinical instructor (CI) was the only occupational therapist at my site, but they truly advocated and raised OT awareness within our client and provider population. I am so fortunate to have had their supervision because they helped further my understanding of what occupational therapy’s role in mental health is. I also appreciated how they always challenged me to ask questions and tested my clinical reasoning and critical thinking skills. At first, I was nervous about making mistakes, but I kept reminding myself that it’s okay and that I should take those as opportunities to learn and grow. Additionally, with the rest of the agency team (inclusive of case managers, clinicians, administrative support and program directors), I felt very well supported and empowered to make an impact as an occupational therapy fieldwork student. It wasn’t long after the beginning when I started to more confidently plan clients’ treatments, document my sessions, present cases to my fellow colleagues, and really highlight the unique capacity of occupational therapy within the mental health community.
It was this sense of community and appreciation for OT that made me feel like I belonged, and uplifted me to bring my skills and knowledge of resources to the table. I was able to creatively collaborate with my caseload of clients to address hygiene management, budgeting their finances, accessing resources, accountability with task completion, social participation, engaging in habit change, and building and maintaining routines so that they can independently participate in their daily lives. I realized that this is the beautiful work of occupational therapy in mental health (and of course there’s so much more to it)! These are meaningful occupations that may be difficult for individuals to participate in because of their mental health needs and barriers. As occupational therapists, we have the power to use occupations as a means and as an ends, as well as to support our clients with health promotion and education, holistic interventions, and our therapeutic use of self.
Overcoming self-doubt and persevering through my own imposter syndrome enabled me to come out of this fieldwork with a wealth of insight, about OT and about myself. I’m grateful for My Mental Health Immersion Experience for providing me with such a solid foundation that prepared me well for this experience. Also, the interprofessional collaboration that I experienced here was extraordinary, and I am incredibly thankful for all the mental health practitioners that I was able to collaborate with. Finally, thank you to my CI, my new West Coast University OT student friends, and especially my ambassador teammate, Bethany Yew, who was placed there along with me — WE DID IT, BETHANY!!!
I am very much looking forward to transitioning into my next, and final, Level II Fieldwork for the Summer 2021 semester, and I can’t wait to continue translating everything I’ve learned through my experiences! Whether if it’s our first or last, or if it’s Level I or Level II, good luck to all of us going into fieldwork. Let’s continue to support one another and make the most out of our experiences!