Current Job Title:
Marriage & Family Therapist
Describe your current job:
I currently work in private practice as an independent contractor (which is similar to being self-employed). I am a counselor/therapist, which basically means I conduct talk therapy. I specialize in couples, families, and nontraditional individuals (ex- LGBTQ, poly, swinging, etc.), so those groups make up about 90% of my caseload. I essentially meet clients wherever they are with their problems, and provide support and education to help them get through crises, resolve problems, and cope with life in general. My ultimate goal is to teach my clients the information, skills, and coping mechanisms they need to successfully tackle problems on their own.
What is the most rewarding and the most challenging part of your job?
The most rewarding part is definitely seeing people become who they want to be. Change is really difficult, even when we want it, and it really warms my heart when clients tell me how meaningful counseling has been for them and how I've helped them change. The most challenging part of my job is the isolation it can create in the rest of my life. Because of the client-patient confidentiality, much of my work life feels like a secret. And even when I can open up a little to my friends and family, it's very hard for them to relate because it's a job that's nearly impossible to really understand without being in the field.
Which of your skills had the biggest impact on your success?
I think my creativity has had the biggest impact on my success as a counselor. I've always been one of those artsy, unique people. (For example, all of my WMU professors remembered me for my blue or pink bangs.) In counseling, though, I've been able to use my creativity for life challenges, rather than art. I'm really great at coming up with ideas on the spot, which is awesome for session activities and homework. I can reframe anything negative into something positive (like finding the lesson in the struggle or the gratitude in the frustration). I'm also great at brainstorming and problem-solving, which is key when we are actively trying to change. And I believe that all of these things wouldn't be possible without creativity.
What advice do you have for others pursuing a career similar to yours?
If you're looking to become a good counselor, you'll actually learn the most from Google, clients themselves, and other counselors. Textbooks and research articles are cool for background knowledge, but their application is slim to none. You have to create your counseling as you go, as you gain first-hand experiences. You have to find or create session activities, intakes, interventions, homework, etc. Which, for most people, means they aren't learning the good stuff until they are in their practicum or internship. If you're not sure if counseling is the job for you or you want more preparation before you're actually to the point of seeing your own clients, call some counseling practices and see if you can talk to and/or shadow a counselor.