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According to the Dictionary of Occupational Titles, the definition of a counselor is one who “provides individual, marital, and family counseling services to adults and children, to assist clients to identify personal and interactive problems, and to achieve effective personal, marital, and family development and adjustment” (Counselor, marriage and family, para. 1) A counselor, therefore, is one who seeks reward by genuinely helping people to enrich their lives. To gain more insight into my reasons for becoming a counselor, I will compare and contrast my personality traits, determine my counseling approach, identify my transferable skills, and describe my future in counseling.
What drives a person to concern himself or herself with the dark side of the human psyche? What is it that compels certain people to elect to help those who are suffering, wounded, or dysfunctional? Assuredly they are a “special sort” because the average person prefers to downplay the psychic sufferings of fellow humans and avoid extensive contact with troubled individuals (Norcross & Farber., 2005, 939).
Many researchers argue that counselors experience more emotional distress in childhood than most people. This heightens their awareness of psychological pain in themselves and others and influences their career choice. Other researchers suggest counseling is attractive to those who believe they are incompetent and ineffectual in their own lives. This feeling impotence provides the opportunity to exert control and influence over their clients’ lives. Finally, researchers believe that many counselors fill their psychological emptiness by choosing the counseling profession (Farber, Manevich, Metzger & Saypol, 2005).
My reasons for becoming a counselor are very personal and derive from my caring and compassionate nature who wanted to “pay it forward.” Diagnosed in 1997 with Bipolar Disorder after suffering in silence for 15 years, I regained my sanity and place in society thanks to effective treatment with medications and the assistance of my therapist. Recognizing that many of those afflicted with mental illness were not as lucky, I wanted to serve the less fortunate by advocating and empowering people to reach their full potential. Very curious and fascinated by people, I wanted to understand how people think and behave. I also wanted to help them deal with life’s challenges and motivate them to make changes in their lives. Moreover, I wanted a fulfilling and rewarding career that would enhance my personal development and have a positive impact on society.
The eight most important qualities in an effective counselor are “psychological health, genuine interest in others, empathic ability, personal warmth, personal power, self-awareness, tolerance of ambiguity, and an awareness of values” (Parrott, 2003, p. 25). Other important qualities are a sense of humor, high energy level, self-confidence, neutrality, flexibility, analytical thinking, creativity, enthusiasm, compassion, and honesty.
In addition to those qualities, I believe I have the following personality traits that would make me an effective counselor:
Based upon what a client needs, counseling approaches are numerous-ranging from basic active listening to solution-based. Some of these approaches include cognitive, behavioral, psychoanalytic/psychodynamic, Adlerian, person-centered, gestalt, humanistic-existential, and integrative/eclectic (All about counseling, n.d.).
This approach seeks to help the client resolve problems by identifying and changing dysfunctional thinking, behavior, and emotional responses. This theory focuses on changing subjective perceptions and distorted thoughts by eliminating negative thoughts and distortions.
This approach emphasizes the idea that behaviors imbed themselves through conditioning. Acquired through interaction with the environment, conditioning is associated with learning that occurs through rewards and punishments or stimuli and responses for behaviors.
This approach focuses on the belief that human behavior is the result of interactions of unconscious drives and forces on a person. To change problematic behaviors, feelings, and thoughts, one must discover the true meanings and motivations and resolve them.
This approach focuses on altering impractical and insurmountable perceptions that can lead to self-defeating behaviors, disappointment, discouragement, and failure. The goal of this theory is to increase social interest, modify self-destructive behavior, and efficiently resolve problems.
This approach focuses on the premise that people are moving toward self-actualization and disconnection from self-potential leads to emotional turmoil. It emphasizes and places confidence in the client’s ability to control his or her own positive direction.
This approach emphasizes the present moment e.g. the “here and now” and encourages the client to become aware of his or her own feelings and behaviors to take personal responsibility for the feelings. The goal of the theory is to assist clients to become aware of what is accurately experienced versus a mere interpretation of events and allow them to identify and change thoughts and behaviors.
This approach focuses on the idea that everyone is inherently good and has the potential to make a contribution to society. This theory emphasizes making rational choices, individual free will, personal growth, and the concept of self-actualization.
This approach believes that no one theory or counseling approach can incorporate every person’s personality. Therefore, it blends elements from different approaches and tailors them to each client’s treatment needs.
Although I appreciate the different counseling approaches, I find myself drawn more to the cognitive approach from personal experience with the theory and its application.
Transferable skills are the skills and abilities acquired during any activity in a person’s life-jobs, classes, projects, parenting, hobbies, sports, etc.-which transfer and apply to what a person wants to do in a future job. Transferable skills are essential for success in today’s competitive market. These are the skills that are applicable from job to job and to a variety of work settings.
According to Bolles (2011), these are the skills most used by counselors in his Transferable Skills Inventory:
According to Mississippi Hospital Association (2002-2004):
Counselors serve as employees in a variety of settings including private practice, hospitals, correctional institutions, mental health clinics, schools and universities, drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers, halfway houses, residential care facilities, job training and vocational rehabilitation centers, and public assistance agencies (Work Environment, para. 2).
My ultimate goal as a counselor is to earn my doctorate in psychology and work with adults and children with Bipolar Disorder specializing in suicide prevention. I see myself working in either a mental health clinic where I can meet with clients or start a mental health organization that focuses on providing suicide hotline assistance via the telephone, e-mail, or instant/text messages.
My duties to the client would consist of the following:
People have many reasons for becoming a counselor. Some people become counselors because of an experience with a counselor during a troubling time in their lives and want to “pay it forward.” Other people may have performed volunteer work at a crisis hotline or homeless shelter and realized that they enjoyed both the difficulties and the rewards of working with clients facing tough times. Moreover, people may have been told that they are good listeners and should consider working in the mental health field. Personally I have many reasons for becoming a counselor and believe I have the appropriate counseling approach, personality traits, and transferable skills to make me an exceptional one.
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