I am a counselor, I am a student. I feel for the fellow students who got into the counseling profession out of passion and care for the ones around them, almost never complaining about the amount of work required to finish the degree, the grim prospects of finding an internship or a job in a lousy economy, the poor pay, oh...we work hard to enter and stay in this business, we pay for it too. If you were to take a sample of students and ask them if they regret the choice they made by getting in this profession, I can almost guarantee that very few will answer yes.
In one of my past articles I brought up the issue of online programs and the fact that maybe one of the main drawbacks is networking and socializing. It seems that we are in a solitary profession and if you are a student trying to get your foot in the door, it’s even harder. For the past few weeks I have been closely watching a few student listservs I am a member of. Its often that I see students (and I am not referring only to online learning) without direction, feeling helpless in the face of finding a mentor, finding internship sites, jobs, etc. Pessimism is flourishing on these forums, and optimism seems to be highly discouraged. A pat on the back and a “you’ll be ok” no longer suffice; student counselors that are here because they care and because they want to help, did well in school, joined professional associations, networked, and volunteered find themselves in an impasse about their future, but do not compromise their outlook on life and on our profession.
A student, friend of mine, told me that when he become a member of several counseling related associations, he asked for help. He emailed between 8-10 people in these associations asking them to point him in the right direction in helping him find a mentor. I wish I could tell you that he got 8 emails back, I wish I could say he got one email back…well, he never heard anything back from anyone and felt so lost although he was only at the beginning of his path. From that point on, mentoring took a very different shape to him: it was no longer one professional asking another for a few questions, it was more of a privilege, something one must earn by proving himself/herself worthy to someone else. Is this really what mentoring is? Do we really want our students to think of their peers in such terms? I want to understand why we can’t make student counselors feel more welcome into this profession, and why does it seem that we make them jump through hoops in order to get our attention. Student counselors are the future of the counseling profession; their commitment –both time and financial- is obvious and yet when they need help, they only get it if they prove themselves some more, maybe until there will be no dignity left, their enthusiasm will have dried out, and their passion will have been too worn off from all the tricks they had to pull out of their sleeve.
By definition, we chose a trade in which we help people. Student counselors need help from their experienced peers…from you. So whether you work in private practice, agency, or a hospital take a moment and remember that you were once a student, too. You needed direction and guidance. If you did get help, pay it forward, and if you didn’t just think that the counseling profession has a future because of these students, because of their passion, and because they care just as much as you do.
Diana C. Pitaru is a counselor-in-training, and a student at Walden University. Her theoretical interests are in Gestalt, Art, and Narrative therapy while focusing on multicultural issues and eating disorders.