For the past month, I caught myself being anxious, breathing fast, and lacking the appetite to eat. I slowed myself down, took deep breaths, and tried to clear my mind in order to make sense of what is going on. Why the anxiousness? After all, this was the last week of my term and I am expecting As in all my classes; the group for student counselors of North Texas that my friend and I started is also going well. I can say with confidence that everything has been peachy in my life –and no, I am not being sarcastic.
I do a lot of self-analysis on my balcony, especially in the morning when I wake up and take my coffee. Wait a second! I hate coffee! I hate the smell and taste of coffee and yet, for the past month or so, I have been religiously waking up at 7 am, made coffee, and went out on my balcony to drink it. Yet, I am sitting here at my desk, telling myself that nothing is wrong when in fact, my anxiousness is growing by the day. Oh, that’s right…I forgot, my upcoming trip to Romania. I am getting ready to fly back home after a 2 year break. I can feel my heart rate going up just by thinking about Romania, let alone going back there to visit.
There are two sides of me when it comes to my feelings towards my country, my people, and my family. First, there is this part that misses them, loves them, holds them at high esteem; and of course, the second part that dreads everything about them. Am I meeting my people’s and family’s expectations? Am I at the point where they are proud of me? Am I skinny enough to go back without fearing that some random stranger on the street is going to stop me and wonder out loud why I am not being careful about my figure? Am I going to be brave enough to go out and have a Romanian pretzel without fearing that everyone is watching me, wondering whether I should be having it?
I have to confess that to me, going back home requires a certain amount of masochism. In fact, if I think about it, there was never a time I came back from home with a smile on my face. It almost seems like I tend to go back to be put down, experience some humiliation, and recharge my batteries with insecurity. I come back exhausted, insecure, and –as you can imagine- with low self esteem. I wonder if it’s all worth it. After all, avoiding humiliation and insecurity would require me to stop visiting my family. I have yet to figure out the answer to this question.
Are counselors supposed to be selfish? I guess self-care requires some amount of selfishness; regardless, the ultimate goal is after all, better care for our clients. My self-care involves therapy; once a week, I work out what I call “the Romania issues”. Avoiding to resolve these issues is not an option; not for me or my family. Although I am not a practicing counselor yet, I deemed therapy necessary in the long term. I want to stop this cycle of back and forth insecurity/confidence before I start working with actual clients. I feel that –aside from my own personal reasons and desire for growth- my clients deserve the best of me, and that it is my duty to worry and care for myself in order to be helpful to them.
So why is it that so many student counselors are so resistant to the idea of their own therapy? To me, this screams hypocrisy. If I would have thought that therapy does not work for me, I would not want to be in this field, right? I have an expectation/assumption that most counseling clients –aside maybe from the court ordered ones- come in for therapy because they believe in it, because it works. Their expectation is that their counselor also believes in it, that it works. So, if I expect my clients to come in for therapy why should I not be expected to help myself with therapy?
What is it that makes some students be so resistant to their own therapy? I heard “if I would go into therapy, the counselor would run out for their life”. Really? Will you run out if a client presents him/herself with deep issues? Does this resistance say something about the quality of services some of these students will provide? I certainly hope their resistance to their own counseling will not be proportional to their acceptance of their clients. Forgive me if I sound harsh or judgmental but it’s hard to wrap my mind around this issue. Please help me figure this out!
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.