I am feeling very humbled these days. I have been told two times in the past 3 months that I should become a supervisor, mentor, or other such person that provides guidance and support to those up and coming in the counseling profession. And charge a nice fee for it too! For the most part, I think that I am a capable and competent professional, but I think with my tendency to lean more on the side of self-doubt, I am frequently questioning if I will ever achieve in this area. In the spirit of brevity, I will not account for the multitudinal steps taken to find my voice, confidence, and focus on what I believe because anyone worth their counselor “weight-in-gold” appreciates the complexities of transformation, with its regression, waxes and wanes, toward the path of enlightenment.
I just want to issue a couple of strategies that I have found to work over the years of my career as a counselor.
1. Never stop learning. I found this difficult to understand in my twenties. It seemed unreasonable. To consider that I may have to study, memorize new information, act differently, reinvent myself, and the list goes on, seemed overwhelming but I now see that it is a mainstay to sustaining my career. Particularly because the world and human beings seem to always change. Not really huge, earth-shattering deviations from what makes us fundamentally human but these incremental discoveries that are being painstakingly researched for the greater good of society as a whole is something truly fascinating. For that I am so grateful.
2. Stay true to yourself. Over the years, I know I am a much different person in my current decade of birthdays than I was in my twenties. I hope that I am a different person in the years to come. However, the one thing to keep in mind is the experiences that I had, made me who I am now and there are lessons to learn from them. If you truly reflect on the what, when, how, and the why of those lessons, a commonality, a woven thread holding together the events that are so giving of meaning and fulfillment starts to make sense. Nothing truly seems like it is when we take a quick glance but when we stop and take a closer look and are reminded of the experiences we are fortunate to have encountered, we may become more verses less. (Yes, I think I am having one of those spiritual awakenings, LOL!) And that brings me to my last strategy for coping with myself and the profession of counseling and that is keeping it light.
3. Laugh. Keeping it light is so simple yet so hard sometimes, especially in this field and in these uncertain times of terrorism, economic hardship, and natural disasters it is downright challenging to see the silver lining in anything. It almost seems as though the entire world is coming to an end really soon. And if it is, are you so busy taking life seriously that you miss the joy of a child’s smile? Your best friend’s tearful gratitude of your understanding as that tension filled space is suddenly replaced with laughter and a knowing look? Those times are the ones that keep you human. It connects you. It keeps you on the same ground but also levitates your soul.
Everyone has a personal background that has brought us into this field. The person that embraces the lesson seeks out new ways of learning, thinking and doing and will understand others and themselves in very humiliating terms yet on an entirely different level. It reminds me of a movie and the title that I had a struggle with in my twenties when I watched The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Oh, now I get it!
Karen Bates is a counselor, addiction specialist, and a doctoral student at Walden University.