What It’s Like To Be A Mental Health Counselor: Update, Part III

In this post, I finish comparing my answers from 7 years ago with my current answers.

Giving Therapy to Friends

7 years ago:
I also have to be careful not to enter therapy mode with my friends, or even people I have just met. I’ve caught myself several times doing this out of habit. It can be hard to separate the professional self from the personal self, but we must. Otherwise our friendships will take on that therapy-like one-way thing, and that won’t be good for us. In fact, I found that once I started doing counseling the needs in my personal relationships shifted. I found that I was in much more need of someone who would listen; I was much more sensitive and apt to feel slighted when friends failed to do this. And they did. Kind of often. As a result, I’ve had to carefully consider who to keep in my life. So, the work has changed the dynamics of my personal relationships.

Now:
I’ve realized I cannot completely separate my persona as therapist from my persona as friend. Although I’m careful not to do therapy with friends, I do sometimes offer advice and suggestions. I think there is more grey area here than I used to.

Handling Difficult Clients

7 years ago:
On the best days, counseling is like sitting down for tea with your best friend, only you can’t talk about yourself. On the worst days, it’s like facing the bully in the school yard, only you can’t speak up for yourself. At least not in the way you really want to. In a sense, becoming a counselor means giving up part of the human side of you – the side of you that has needs and wants to relate to other humans on a personal level. We can’t get our personal needs met while we are in relationship with our clients. Know that, be prepared, and get ready for the most fulfilling career you could ever hope for.

Now:
After several more years of experience under my belt, I get satisfaction from almost all of my clients. One reason is that I have gotten much better at dealing with “the bully in the school yard.” I have learned to look for the hurt underneath the anger, and I can usually find it. I’ve also learned to be more proactive and stricter about establishing and maintaining a respectful atmosphere in the office; I simply do not allow clients to yell or speak disrespectfully to either their partners or myself.

Summary

If I were to sum it up, in general I see more shades of grey. The more I learn and experience, the less I can make definitive statements about counseling.

Yours in the Joy of Knowledge,

Dr. Barb LoFrisco