Why I'm thankful I failed my California Clinical Vignette Exam

Yesterday I posted that was I was full of gratitude for failing my clinical vignette exam back in 2005. It caused some major confusion for some people ;0) If you have failed your clinical vignette exam, written exam, or any licensing exam- you know it isn't something you feel grateful for in the moment. 

You don't feel grateful. You might feel angry, sad, numb, frustrated, confused, hurt, humiliated, humbled, panicked, fearful, overwhelmed, disappointed, embarrassed, and about a million other things. But, I've yet to meet someone that, in those first moments or hours feels grateful. 

No, I'm not one of those evolved humans who felt grateful for my failure in the moment. I still hate failing today, and I hated it then. That is probably one of my Top 10 worst days in my life... which considering my life story is actually pretty funny. 

Failing my exam hit me in a way that many other things hadn't. There comes a point in your life where you might start to feel like "you've got it together." By the time I was sitting for exams- I kind of felt like that. I finished, what my faculty tried to tell me was a 3 year program, in 2 years and 2 months. I racked up my 3000 hours less than 2 years after graduation. I was married, grown up, and had a great job. 

I competed for sought after county jobs with over 300 applicants and ended up ranked #1 and was offered multiple positions. While on many days it felt a little surreal to be "grown up" and doing well, on other days it just felt nice and wonderful. Life was good. My confidence was high. 

And then I failed my clinical vignette exam. By 1 point. Before attending a family reunion. Where everyone knew I was taking it. 

Talk about a bad day. I got to tell everyone I adored face to face that I failed my exam. 

But, back to today. I LOVE that I failed that day. I could write for hours and days about all the reasons that I LOVE that I failed, and I am SO grateful that I failed, but here are the top reasons:  

  1. Failing my licensing exam forced me to take a deep look at my own sense of self and where I was deriving my sense of worth. 
  2. Failing the licensing exam gave me a better perspective on what licensing exams really are, and what they are not. 
  3. I learned to separate the quality of my clinical work from the examination process. 
  4. I learned that a truly great clinical supervisor and outcome measurement is going to have more of an impact on my clinical effectiveness that any licensing exam.
  5. I learned that even though licensing boards do really good work to keep the public safe, they are infallible and mistakes are made. 
  6. I learned that reaching out and connecting with others is one of the most powerful ways to learn, to heal, and to thrive in this beautiful life. 
  7. I learned that being truly passionate about something is much more important than whether you are getting paid well. 
  8. i learned that getting paid well doing something you are passionate about is the best feeling in the world. 
  9. I learned that I was not alone in my struggles- not just in licensing exams- but in so many of the hoops I jumped through to get licensed. 
  10. I learned that being a great therapist is something that is a lifelong process, not something that happens when you get licensed. 
  11. I learned that being kind to myself is the best thing I can do for me when I am hurting. 
  12. I learned that I was called to be a connector, to create something amazing to help other people hurting like me. 
  13. I learned that there were more ways to help and support people beyond psychotherapy. 
  14. I learned that the big ol' Internet can be an amazing way to connect people. 
  15. I learned that I could make amazing friends from all over the world just doing what I love. 
  16. I learned to have deep compassion for others who had failed their licensing exam. 
  17. I learned that one of the biggest barriers to test success is anxiety, even for someone like me who didn't think they had anxiety. 
  18. I learned that while some test preparation places are amazing, some really don't care about you as a person.
  19. I learned that community is powerful in everything we do. I think I said that twice, but it bears repeating. 

Seriously, I could go on for hours on this subject. But, for now if you've failed an exam, let me just tell you that this too shall pass. If you are committed to becoming a licensed psychotherapist, you will become one. It will happen. It will be ok. Maybe some day you will look back and feel neutral... or maybe you will find some gratitude in it some day. 

If you failed your exam, and that is how you stumbled across this article, let me give you a big ol' virtual hug. I've been there. You can get through this. It sucks. But, it is also an opportunity- to see what you do with adversity. So- go kick adversity's tushy and enjoy your laugh today. Go outside and play. Go do a yoga class and think of me... (if it helps you smile during yoga I tipped over and full on fell the first time I did yoga...) 

What to hear the entire story of how I failed and passed my written clinical vignette exam on the first try?

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