ACA Blog

Stephanie Adams
Jan 06, 2011

Addressing the Beginning Counselor Problem

I had a friend. Really friendly, good listener, self-contained, caring. We went to college together, both majoring in Family Psychology. After graduation, I went on to my counseling degree, and she started a program in marriage and family therapy. As often happens, we lost touch for a while. But about a year ago, we caught up. I excitedly told her about my internship, and asked how her MFT internship was going.

She said she never started it. She’s got a job in marketing now.

What?!

Her practicum experience was awful. Her supervisor had no sense of self-care and was burnt out and bitter. She was divorcing her husband, who was also a counselor. My friend would bring home the emotions of the clients she saw during the day. Sometimes she wouldn’t sleep. She got married, but wasn’t able to give anything to her new husband because she was so emotionally drained from her job. She was worried about her ability to earn money to save for a house and eventually a family. Her husband had a good job, but they would both need to work in order to reach their goals. In the end, she just couldn’t do it.

This. Absolutely. Appalled. Me.

Clients lost out because my friend did not become a counselor. She lost out, because she didn’t get to see her dream through. I lost out, because I lost faith in the system.

I got a lot out of my degree, as far as education on theory and ethics. But most counseling schools – and resources for students – are sorely lacking in the topics of self-care, practical help, and advice tailored to the needs of new counselors instead of generalized to all counselors. Most of the time, beginning counselors get overlooked. This shouldn’t be the case. We are obviously very different:


  1. Veteran counselors are concerned with developing their practices. We just want to find a site that will take us.

  2. We are terrified of messing somebody up. Experienced counselors feel at ease with their abilities as a professional.

  3. We are unsure of ourselves and our styles. Experienced counselors already know who they are as a therapist.

  4. Counselors that are farther along in their careers have reached a place in which they are more stable in their finances. Beginning counselors have to take second jobs, extra loans, or support from another in order to make it through the internship without moving into a cardboard box.

  5. Experienced counselors have techniques. New counselors have a dog-eared book of theory and no idea how to apply it to counseling scenarios.

  6. While counselors with practice have discovered how to balance work and personal life, beginning counselors risk burnout and self-defeating behaviors by not understanding boundaries or self-care.


You’re looking at two vastly diverse groups here. So why do people think that one size fits all, when it comes to counselor support?

It’s not right to complain about something unless you’re willing to do something about it. This problem – especially because of my friend’s troubles – really gets to me. I can’t not think about it.

So here’s my contribution to a small part of the solution:

Where: www.beginningcounselor.webs.com

Who: Me! I’m an intern. This is what I needed at the beginning of my practicum and internship. This is my passion: supporting new counselors.

What: It’s a social networking and resource website specifically created for beginning counselors. It addresses your needs and connects you with other people in your situation.

How: Create a member profile, send messages and comment on other’s profiles, post photos and videos, and tailor your profile to describe your new counselor profile.

Connect with other counselors for mentorship, networking and support. Experienced counselors are invited to join for the purpose of encouraging and mentoring other students.

Read the blog, which supplies quick, basic answers to the real questions you have. How do I find a site? How do I apply for licensure? Submit your own question!

Start a discussion on the forum!

Join research efforts related to counselor well-being!

Why: Because it’s needed. Because it’s there. Because we shouldn’t lose any more fantastic new counselors because they feel overwhelmed, under-supported, and alone.

If anything is to come of this effort, it will be due to people like you. For change to happen, we must turn to each other and work as a team to better articulate our needs and meet them for ourselves until such a time as it does become a priority in education. And even then, nothing can substitute for the support of community. That’s what this is about.

Please click on the link and become a member of this free community today. You are not alone. You can do this. You have something special to offer. We need you.


Stephanie Ann Adams is a counselor who believes in the ability of the mind to understand and change behaviors, and in each person’s power to create the life they want. Her blog can be found at www.sassynsane.blogspot.com.

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