Counsellors have the important job of healing our psychological wounds so that we may lead a healthier and happier life. If this is your calling, here are the things you need to know about a career in counseling.
You Will Need to Obtain at Least a Master’s Degree
Whether you seek to work in school counseling, marriage and family therapy, rehabilitation therapy, addictions, or faith-based counseling, you will likely need to go beyond a bachelor’s degree. Most students obtain a degree in psychology or human services to start out with, although people will achieve higher degrees from any number of academic backgrounds. To become a legally licensed counselor in your state, you must first find out your state’s individual requirements. You will likely be required to complete a certain amount of hours of coursework and a certain amount of minimum hours of supervised practice. All states will likely have you complete an examination to ensure you understand the law and ethics of counselling. It is becoming almost essential that counsellors hold at least a master’s degree in their field to remain competitive in the industry. Fortunately, master’s degree programs are becoming more flexible as more people return to education as working professionals. Research programs such as GMercyU’s online master’s degree in school counseling or check out your local college to find part-time educational programs.
You May Become Emotionally Attached to Your Patients
It is highly common for counsellors, at one point or another, to become attached to their clients. Especially when you are first starting out, it can be difficult for some people to keep his or her emotional distance from the subject as natural empathy takes over. Just like in any medical profession, counselling involves heartbreak and loss. The client you may have worked with for years who was an unbreakable vessel carrying his hurt deep inside, who was drugging himself into oblivion, and who passed his days in isolation except to see you, may have suddenly opened up. But all of a sudden, he might miss his next appointment, and you will never hear from him again. These instances can make you feel at a loss, and you may become downcast about the human experience as a whole. However, there will be moments of joy and of clarity. You will see patients recover from their past, and you will see those patients not only survive, but thrive. Counselors provide an important, great service in our society, and your efforts and talents are invaluable.
You Will be Humbled by Your Limitations
Ultimately, you cannot make a patient do anything they don’t want to do, as long as they are not a direct threat to themselves or others. You may work with the same patient for years, and they will never heed your advice. Even so, you are not perfect, and you may not always make the best diagnoses or give the correct therapy. You are undoubtedly going to make mistakes, and you will have to learn from them. This is why it is always important to be open to the fact that you have limitations, and that you can overcome them only by learning from them and using patience. One tip to strengthening some of your weaknesses is to keep a close network of fellow therapists. Perhaps they reside in your own office or you have met them at behavioral health seminars. These people will likely have strengths you may not have, and you can learn from them. Likewise, if you specialize in, say, adolescent therapy, then keep up to date on the latest studies and trends within therapy methodology. Arming yourself with experience and knowledge is the best way to overcome obstacles.
If you work for a private practice, then you have the power to set your own schedule. However, you may still be at the mercy of the time that your clients are able or are willing to commit to their appointments. Often, this means that you may have to see clients after regular hours or work on weekends, especially in the beginning of your practice. If you are lucky enough to maintain regular work hours, then surprise! Your clients still may not show up or cancel at the last minute. It may be necessary for you to have a flexible schedule so that you can accommodate the needs of your patients.