In this final post of the series I reflect on my overall journey to becoming a counsellor, and share some advice on what to do if you're considering the profession.
What was your drive for doing a Masters in Counselling?
On the more personal side of things, I’ve always known that I wanted to help people in this way. Growing up, kids always turned to me for advice, and I really valued being that person to them, even as a child. But counselling is not about giving advice, which I quickly learned in the program.
In terms of choosing the right educational path, I don’t enjoy conducting research so I did the M.Ed Masters of Education stream in Counselling Psychology. This doesn't have a research requirement. I also learned in undergrad that I didn't want to spend 6 years doing a combined Masters and Ph.D program for Clinical Psychology, which is very research intensive.
You said that you thought that counselling was to give advice, but you quickly learned that it was not. Can you share more on that?
Being a counsellor means guiding your client to their own answers through the way you question them. Our experiences are very different so a counsellor cannot tell the client what is best for them to do. The client needs to figure it out on their own.
What would you qualify as your best traits as a psychotherapist?
From what I have discussed with colleagues, I believe that I speak for a large number of counsellors when I say that my best quality is my genuine love for working with others in a very personal way.
To be an effective counsellor, you need to be comfortable putting your own experience, opinions and biases aside and completely submerging yourself in someone else’s experience and world to be able to help them most effectively.
Do you have any advice for people who are aspiring psychotherapists?
Truly, you need to be 100% sure that this is the career you want. You need to feel it in your heart and know deep down that this is the career for you. This profession is not for the faint of heart, sorry for the cliché, but it’s true. From a young age I knew that I wanted to be a counsellor, but it is tough work.
I just realized recently that counsellors are the keepers of secrets. In school you will learn how to be the right level of empathetic to be able to manage someone else’s pain and suffering and be okay yourself when you leave the room, but it’s a work in progress. There are times when you will not feel prepared for what the client brings, and you will need to debrief with your supervisor to work through your own emotions about the session. It is hard work, but I believe it’s one of the most rewarding professions of all.
What can you do to figure out if counselling is the right profession for you?
To help you figure out if counselling is right for you, start by getting involved in the mental health field in some way. You can volunteer on your campus for the peer help line (I did this in undergrad), a mental health association or centre in your community. You can watch different role plays of therapy on YouTube. Unfortunately you will not be able to see the inside of a therapy room until you are an intern in a graduate program, due to confidentiality and legal reasons, but there are other ways to see what counselling actually looks and feels like.