I don’t know if it’s just my perception but whenever I tell someone what I do for a living they seem to find an excuse to leave the room as quickly as possible. I don’t know if they think I’m analysing them? Trust me I’m not, it doesn’t work like that.
As an undergraduate psychology student I never really thought about what I was going to do with my qualification at the end. I just knew I really enjoyed attending the lectures.
During this time I also became a volunteer at my University’s student support service; Nightline. I quickly realised how interested I was in supporting people at differing stages of life and also in helping the other volunteers manage a difficult call.
After I graduated I spent some time away from psychology before thinking about how I could use my qualification to support everyday people. I chose to do a masters in counselling and go onto do the proficiency test with BACP.
Even as a trainee I don’t remember ever feeling nervous before a session. I just thought that I needed to focus on the connection with the person in front of me, their life and wellbeing and the rest would just follow.
Initially I couldn’t imagine being able to talk to a person for 50 minutes or an hour but time just flies by and I’m already thinking about what we can work on in our next session.
I experienced burnout quite early on in my career and learnt quickly that if I didn’t take care of myself I couldn’t take care of others’. From then on I learnt to put firm boundaries in place and created a work-life balance that worked for me. I’ve learnt that I prefer to see more clients in a day then have days off to take off my ‘counsellor hat’ and recharge.
Something I think people don’t realise is that even thought I might see a client for 50 minutes a week, I spend time inbetween those sessions researching what would help that client more.
It is also an expensive profession to be in. There’s no guarantee if you work privately (as I do) and if client’s cancel late (it often can’t be helped) it obviously impacts on your livelihood. The overheads also add up; training, room rental, supervision (a good supervisor is worth their weight in gold but this usually comes at a cost), liability insurance, professional membership fees to associations, marketing costs to bring in new clients…… things that are all definitely required to be a good counsellor.
However considering all this it is a truly rewarding profession. I currently work with a mixture of children, adolescents, adults, supervisees and deliver training. I’ve learnt that having a mixture works well for my mental and emotional availability, it also has short term and long term goals and rewards.
I will never tire of a spikey teen throwing their bag at the wall as they enter the room of the school I’m in asking “how do you think you can help me?!” and then returning the week after realising I’m not going to tell them what to do but help them explore what is going to help them enrich their life.