Can Psychotherapy help with Imposter Syndrome?

‘I don’t belong here’

‘Imposter syndrome’ is something we increasingly hear referenced our South Dublin psychotherapy clinic, and while those who recognise that they suffer from it share many of the same feelings which this symptom encompasses, the cause of their symptom is singular. ‘Imposter syndrome’ can be characterised as a feeling of being out of place, of not belonging and having not earned one’s position in life. This is most keenly felt in the workplace, and can present itself as feelings of inadequacy, that one is not as good or as talented as one’s colleagues, or deserving of the position or status one has, and that ultimately one will be ‘found out’, revealed as a fraud and shown to be unworthy. The consequences of this can be felt as anxiety, depression, low confidence and self-esteem, and many other negative emotions.  

Do I need a psychotherapist?

Each person has their own unique story and position which shapes who and how they are. The symptom- in this case imposter syndrome- is speaking or expressing something which the sufferer refuses to actually articulate or be aware of; it is a way of communicating something that in day-to-day life we are unable or unwilling to say. This is not a wilful refusal, be assured, it is much more complex than that. But it is a knowledge, a displaced effect of something deeper, and usually this knowledge has absolutely nothing to do with the presenting complaint or the circumstances in which it is being expressed. By talking with a trained psychotherapist, the causes of paradoxical and frustrating feelings we have can be revealed.

Mental Health Help in Dublin

Understandably, we tend to approach mental health problems from the point of the symptom. Unfortunately this often leads to getting things backwards, as the symptom is an indication of something else happening. Much like a fever could have any number of causes, the treatment will be different depending on whether it is caused by the flu or malaria. By looking to address only the symptom as opposed to trying to understand and loosen the underlying cause, we can often find that our symptom returns in other ways. You feel like an imposter in work? Well let’s change job, or engage in some confidence building exercises or acquire some CBT tools. These may well have an effect on the symptom, of the feeling of being an imposter, but it will do little to fundamentally address the reason why you may have had such feelings in the first place.

A Psychotherapeutic Approach

Excluding the profoundly mentally ill, the solution to one's suffering does not lie in the ‘eureka’ of some label of diagnosis and specified treatment plan, nor does it reside in a jar of pills. The solution to one's suffering lies within. But it is not neatly quantifiable, measurable or expedient. What may work for one person is not guaranteed to work for another, and so in addition to the practical psychological tools of CBT and rational reasoning involved in addressing the immediate symptom, there must be a space for exploring and challenging one’s own story and own role in the circumstances that cause us such upset. It is by allowing ourselves to question why we may be feeling the way that we do, instead of just trying to make such feelings go away, that we can bring about long term, positive change in our lives. Psychotherapy can provide such a space, and works with the individual to soften the symptom and also come to an understanding of what such a symptom is saying.

If you would like to know more, or to make an appointment for counselling in our South Dublin psychotherapy office, please contact us here.