“Why did you decide to become a Professional Counselor?”
I get this question fairly often. Mostly from new counseling graduates or clients who have been seeing me for long enough. For me, being a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) is an honor and a challenge. To fully answer this quesiton, I would have to start by talking briefly about what I do as an LPC.
My “Job” as an LPC
I put the word “job” in parenthesis because I often don’t feel as if this is a job lately. I am in the profession of helping people through a wide variety of problems.
Here are a few things I get to do on the “job.”
- Listen: I listen to what my clients have to say. Many times, people feel they talk but they are not heard. They feel as if they share their feelings, but the underlying meaning of why they are feeling that way is not brought to light. So, I listen for what is being said, but also to whay is not being said.
- Recognize: I am training to recognize many things as an LPC. Some of these include signs of unhealthy boundaries, indications of a mental illness, patterns of behavior, and structural patterns in relationships.
- Validate: This cannot be underestimated in my role. People often need validation and empathy in order to fully heal.
- Plan: I establish a plan to help my clients with the issues they bring to me. This includes coming up with goals and ways to reach those goals.
- Encourage: I encourage my clients in reaching their goals, making progress in their life, and reaching healthy milestones.
- Advise: I advise clients in handling certain situations, such as handling a child’s visitation after divorce, talking with doctor’s and teachers about what is going on.
- Play!: As a play therapist, engaging children during therapeutic play is one of my roles, and definitely one of my favorites.
The Reason I Chose Counseling (A Rare Moment of Personal Disclosure)
I am an only child and grew up in a 2 parent home. I can say confidently and thankfully that I am loved by both parents and a small extended family of aunts, uncles, and cousins. I had a happy childhood. However, starting around middle school, I began to experience the challenges that I believe most adolescents experience. I started a new school as well, which added to some of the social challenges of the time. Making friends was difficult for me and I found myself being bullied pretty regularly. This was more of the relational aggression bullying that we see among girls. I remember feeling confused and lonely. I did not have siblings or friends to talk to and I don’t remember my school having a school counselor either. I began surrounding myself with anyone who would be my friend, no matter whether they were a good influence or not.
I finally made my way to high school. My grades were good and I was making a few more friends. But then I got the dreaded boyfriend. You know the one that every mother and father despises and wants to keep far from their daughters. I will skip the details of this time in my life, but I’m sure you can fill in the blanks with your own experience, or one of someone you know. The bottom line is that I again felt lonely and confused. I actually wanted OUT of the relationship with this boy, but I felt trapped and scared. If only I had someone to talk to and help me sort it all out in a healthy and safe way.
Why didn’t I talk to my parents? This is where my career choice will begin to make sense for you. I didn’t tell my parents how scared and lonely I felt for many reasons (that I can only now finally to put into words):
- Embarrassment. I was embarrassed to admit I made mistakes and needed help.
- Fear. I was afraid what would happen if they intervened.
- Disappointment. I didn’t want to disappoint my parents, especially being an only child and all.
- Pride. As a teenager, you are trying to prove yourself as an adult and admitting mistakes doesn’t help your case.
Putting It All Together
So that’s my personal story of some difficult times when I really needed a counselor as an adolescent. I’m confident the outcome could have been different, as well as saving myself and my family some grief. However, like most challenges and triumphs in our life, those experiences made me who I am today! I am in the business of helping people who are lonely, need answers, feel depressed, or don’t know the healthiest way to handle their circumstance.
I have mentioned in other posts, the importance of finding a mentor for your teenager and it’s for the reasons I stated above that I believe this is so important. With the rise of depression in teens, divorce, autism, and so much more, I don’t ever want a teenager, child, adult, or parent to feel they are alone and don’t have someone to talk to and help.
There are many professionals in the helping profession who follow this blog. I would love to hear how you decided this was the career for you!