A few weeks ago, I was with some friends at a social gathering and out of curiosity someone asked me, “How do you not let it affect you? How do you deal with the stress?”
It got me thinking about the questions I frequently get from others when they find out I’m a therapist. It was not the first time I had been asked that question, so I decided to write an interview style blog post comprised of the questions I’m asked the most.
So, how do you deal with the stress?
I have to remember to have time for me and for the things I enjoy. Whether it’s gardening, spending time with friends and family, or time in prayer I need to be involved in something that fills me back up. If I am not taking care of myself, then I won’t be able to give my best to my clients. It’s my responsibility to do that on their behalf.
I also talk about self-care frequently with my clients. I have to practice what I preach. If I hold them accountable to take care of themselves, then I have to be willing to do the same.
But, how do you not bring it home with you?
Some days are harder than others. What I’ve learned is that the more I’m able to take care of myself outside of work, the less I feel overwhelmed.
Sometimes you can’t help but feel empathy for extremely difficult situations, (anyone who works in a service oriented field or in ministry knows this) but when I notice myself feeling constantly stressed and worried, that is a sign that I have not been taking care of myself. Ultimately, this reduces my ability to help carry others’ burdens.
What’s the best part about being a counselor?
To witness the journey of healing and the courageous steps clients take toward healing, that truly is the best.
The parent who’s successful with a new consequence, the couple that not only reduces arguments but enjoys one another’s company again, the teen who is less anxious, stops cutting, and is able to focus on school… It’s indescribable.
Celebrating progress after a client’s hard work is truly a privilege. How humbled I am by the people whom I’ve encountered in counseling! They have more strength than they know.
Another great part is the variety of people you get to meet. I sit with families from various walks of life and experiences. They welcome me and entrust me with a vulnerable part of their lives, and it is so inspiring.
The inside jokes are fun too.
What’s the hardest part?
This is a difficult question to answer. I really enjoy what I do. One of the hard parts (and also positive parts) is knowing that you can’t control your clients. Here’s what I mean by that:
I might have an idea of what I think would be best for a client, but at the end of the day, they have to live their life and they might disagree with one of my suggestions.
For example, I could suggest that someone exercise on a regular basis to fight depression. However, that doesn’t mean they’ll go home and do it. When that person comes back to session not having exercised, we talk about it.
I’m not their parent. I can’t just tell people what to do and expect them to fall in line. I can’t discipline them (that would be very strange). Instead, we talk about what got in the way and see if we can figure out a new plan.
The positive part is that they are choosing their own path, which is what counseling is all about. It’s not just giving advice, it’s about empowering clients to live their lives more fully.
The difficult part is having to eat some humble pie every now and then. (Like learning the last time that person tried to exercise, they were mugged in the gym parking lot and didn’t feel up to going there again).
Eating humble pie is not necessarily a bad thing, because it keeps you on your toes and helps you improve.
Why did you want to become a therapist?
I felt called to help the world by helping families. I had a great family growing up. My parents are incredible people who sacrificed much and they are still married to this day. As I grew older, I learned that my family was rare. I had friends whose parents divorced. I saw what it did to them and the pain it caused.
Saint John Paul II wrote, “As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live.” I want others to be able to experience the benefits of strong positive family relationships just like I did. I want to do what I can to keep families together because I believe that each family unit can help shape and change our culture for better or for worse.
What should I do if I want to become a counselor?
If you’re considering the field of counseling, know that it is a life-changing process to become a therapist. You will have tools, training and knowledge applicable to any area of life.
Research graduate programs. Most are a minimum of 2-3 years. Find the program that fits you best. If you’re in the state of Florida, make sure it is a CACREP accredited program. You will have difficulty obtaining licensure after graduation if you do not attend a CACREP accredited school.
Before you apply, do some soul searching. Ask yourself why you’re interested in counseling. Who do you want to serve? This will be important to keep in mind while you’re completing your course work.
Know that it is not a field for the faint of heart. There are difficulties, as with any profession, but if you have a heart to help others the rewards are so worth it.
Are you psychoanalyzing me?
If I said “No” would you believe me?? Actually, I’ve already pushed the panic button within my purse. They’re on their way now… with strait jackets… they should be here to take you in about 25 minutes…
In reality, analyzing and assessing takes a lot of focused energy. I like “to keep work at work” as much as the next person. Sometimes I see and notice things without trying, but I will never judge and I will never tell you. So no worries, just relax 🙂
What do you think is the general perception of counseling?
There is a large stigma in society when it comes to counseling. People don’t like to admit that they’ve received counseling let alone consider the possibility of going themselves.
Unfortunately, I believe our society/culture thinks that counseling is just for “crazy” people.
What is one thing you want people to know about counseling?
Anyone can benefit from counseling! Really, anyone.
Therapy is not just for people with severe psychological disorders such as schizophrenia. Whether you’re fighting with your spouse, your child, or yourself; counseling is a place where you can speak with a trained professional, an objective third party, to help you recognize patterns within your life, to problem solve, and to break the patterns which are least helpful to you.
What should I do if I know someone who needs a therapist?
Talk to them. Let them know you’re worried about them and how much you care. Tell them you think they need help and would benefit from a counselor.
But when you speak to them, don’t just leave it there.
Say you will help them find one. If they’re open to the idea, do some online research of therapists in your area and send that information. If you’ve had your own positive experience with counseling, share about it.
Ask if they want you to be present (for moral support) when they make the phone call.
The more that you can normalize and help that person know you are coming from a place of love rather than judgement, the more likely they will seek the help they need.
What other questions have you always wanted to ask a therapist? Let me know and I’ll do my best to answer!