I have been asked why I chose to be a professional counselor several times in the past few weeks. This question has come from some students doing interviews for graduate course assignments as well as some clients. So, I thought I would answer that question.
The answer is actually pretty simple and rather cliché. I enjoy helping others. Whether giving to my church, a cause, or assistance organization or helping someone through a difficult time in their life, I really do enjoy it. The obvious question then is, “Why counseling? Why not something else?” Great question. That answer is a little more complicated.
As an associate pastor, I found myself being asked for “advice” a lot. Not knowing anything about mental health, I didn’t feel qualified to give any kind of help. My day job was all about science, statistics, and process improvement. It didn’t involve the varied details of human experience. Things were measured, classified, and flowed within a set of strict parameters. Life doesn’t really work that way. I was lost.
I decided to get a counseling degree to supplement other training and education I had. I had no intention to practice counseling. However, once I got to the practicum portion of my degree plan, I loved it! The process of seeing real people make real changes in their lives was awesome to me. And the rest is history, I suppose.
The Passion Continues
Nine years later, I still find myself in awe of the process. I find myself still having a passion for helping others through counseling. It is an honor and privilege for me to sit with someone in their struggles and pain. It is a gift others give me to hear their stories and help them write new ones.
One of the things I know about professional counseling is that most people call when things have gotten beyond what they thought they could handle. I wish this were different. I do believe that professional counseling can help people prevent or at least interrupt the downward spiral. Because of the stigma associated with mental health services, many are reluctant to make the appointment until things are more serious. I wish this were different. Maybe some day it will be…
My Idea of Professional Counseling
Counseling itself is the application of science to life and mental health problems that usually don’t fit into predictable patterns – the way science likes for them to. We are all unique. We all have different experiences. We all have different worldviews. Yet, I do believe there are some well-tested and proven principles that apply in most situations.
As a cognitive-behavioral therapist, I believe that thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are interconnected and intertwined. I believe that strong emotional states that cause us problems (e.g., depression, anxiety, excessive anger, overwhelming fear, etc.) come from faulty ways of thinking. There are a myriad of examples.
My idea of professional counseling is to help people cope with strong emotions and ultimately change the way they think. I admit, that is really oversimplified in one sense, but perfectly to the point in another. Changing patterns of thinking that we have held on to for years is not easy (trust me – it’s not!). It isn’t easy changing a perspective I have had for years. However, being able to do so allows me to feel differently, experience negative emotions without becoming paralyzed by them, and change my behavior to more closely match what I want it to be. So, there you have it. Easy, right?
In a nutshell, I chose professional counseling because I love the process of helping others and I truly enjoy seeing them improve their mental health and life in general.
What are some thoughts you have had about professional counseling in terms of what it is and what it might mean to see a therapist? We would love to hear from you!