View all blogs

Wednesday, 30 November 2022

Moving from student to practitioner

natural health online study tips and advice

There’s a bridge that lies between being a student and being a practitioner. It takes us from the relatively cushioned environment of learning to a wide unknown world. Every practitioner has once stood on the edge of that bridge, crossing from one world to the other, graduate to self-employed, feeling a little nervous, a little excited, and not quite sure of the right steps to take.

The pathway from student to practitioner is one of the most unique career paths in that the transition is often done alone. Most other professions will have a supervision or apprenticeship stage where new graduates are taken under the wing, employed, and told what to do by someone who has been there before. It is, therefore, understandable that the bridge that you see ahead of you after graduation can feel a little daunting!

The human mind will have us believe that we are the only one that feels nervous and overwhelmed as we make those first steps into the unknown. It will also have us believe that we are not good enough to be there. After all, this is a natural defense mechanism. The brain will come up with some flawless arguments to get us to step back into a comfortable space where we are not exposed to the judgement. The work of the limbic system (our primitive survival response) is to keep us safe from threats including exposure and judgement of all forms. One way that it does this is to remind us of all of the things that have gone wrong or could go wrong!

So we stand on the edge of the bridge, ready to expose ourselves and our knowledge to the world, our limbic system begins to fire. What you do next will determine how easy crossing that bridge is for you.

Step 1: Recognise that fear is normal

We cannot stop the reaction of our limbic system. It’s a primal system which has the ability to override all other systems in an emergency. Fear is there to protect us. It does not, however, have to be believed! Your protective mechanism will tell you a vast array of stories from “imposter” to “I can’t do this”. It is then up to you, as a human being with the power of choice, presence, and self-awareness to choose whether to let fear make your decisions for you. Will you let the fear be there in the background, moving forward, knowing that it’s normal to feel that way and also being aware that it is not truth? Or will you choose to believe all of the stories and scenarios your brain can come up with?

It isn’t always easy to put fear in the backseat, but it helps to have the awareness and self-compassion to know that it’s normal and it’s okay, you are actually safe. The next tip is to breathe. Exhale slightly longer than your inhale – five out, four in. This will calm your brain and release tension.

Then here is the magic tip… Say your fears out loud!

“I am scared that…”

Putting your fears into words shifts the thoughts from the back primitive part of your brain to the frontal, rational part of your brain.

Know your fears are normal, say them out loud, and then take those first steps anyway!

Step 2: Find your support system

The road into being a self-employed practitioner can be lonely at times. It’s important to find a network of people who have gone through or are going through a journey similar to yours.

You may find this network in other self-employed people in your area. You may find it in friends who have known you for a long time. Perhaps it’s a mentor, or classmates. Whoever it is, it is crucial that they are people that you can be honest with and who will be empathetic to the journey ahead.

Step 3: Educate yourself

It is not expected by anyone that you should “just know” what to do to start up your own business and to answer all questions that come through your door in clinic! Both business and being a good practitioner are skills. These skills are often not innate, they are learnt!

If you’re sitting on the edge of your bridge and unsure of what step to take, you may just need a little more education. Education helps you to understand, get clear and, most of all, it invites your curiosity! Curiosity beats fear every time.

Most importantly, through every step, be kind to yourself. There will never be enough practitioners in the world. Trust in your own skill, be open to learning and take one step at a time. Before you know it, that bridge will be long behind you.

Interested in the business of natural health?

Gain a solid grounding in core business skills with our business short courses designed for the natural health industry — Find out more about our Business Essentials Short Courses.

Emma Sternberg

Emma Sternberg has spent her whole adult life helping people to understand themselves and their behaviours.

With the grounding of a Bachelor of Health Science (Complementary Medicine) and Kinesiology she has established successful clinics in two locations and helped thousands of people to be more connected to themselves.

It’s been a natural progression to use her understanding of humans to help other practitioners in their own business journeys, and in 2017 she launched The Practitioner Table which guides practitioners to success in their own businesses.

Emma’s career has evolved from working 1-1 to teaching, course creation and mentoring.

She has established a wide network of practitioners all over Australia who continue to train under her guidance in the area of natural health and business and is passionate about helping practitioners to establish successful and fulfilling careers.


  1. Bachelor of Health Science (Complementary Medicine)
  2. Adv. Dip Holistic Kinesiology
  3. Cert IV TAE
  4. Cert IV Small Business Management
  5. 15+ years in clinical practice
Read more by Emma Sternberg

"Super interesting content, I love these short courses! I like how there’s so much practical content that I can incorporate into my own life."

- Emma

In partnership with

As featured in