ACA Blog

Jackie Torres
Jul 11, 2011

6 Ways Training To Be A Counselor Is Like Learning Guitar

I started learning to play the guitar almost two years ago. I wanted to learn to play an instrument but always thought I was too busy to try. One day, I decided to stop thinking and just do it. Since I’ve started, I noticed how similar learning to play guitar is to the training as a new counselor.
1.Practice, Practice, Practice
In order to get more comfortable and skilled doing either, I must practice. It must be something that I complete long term to reach a deeper understanding and skill level. There is comfort for me in knowing that counseling and playing an instrument do not solely rely on 100% talent and intuition, but rather, require a purposeful dedication to master.


2.It Takes Time
Along with practicing, I must realize that it will take time to become excellent and an expert at either. At first, I expected to be all knowledgeable and knowing after graduating from my program and was disappointed when I learned this was not even close to being the case. Similar to the guitar, I thought it would be a quick learn and I would be playing classic rock songs within weeks. Now I fully embrace the complexities and intricacies of both. I am enjoying the journey of learning and am looking forward to all my future development

3.New Skills Start To Feel More Natural
I remember during my very first interviewing class, I was taught about the appropriate use of open ended questions, closed ended questions, and the importance of summarizations and reflections. I wondered how in the world I could both try to listen to a person and figure out how to structure the flow of the interview. With the guitar, I was intimidated with having to form odd chords that stretched my fingers in unnatural ways and then having to switch from one painful formation to the next one. However, with practice, time, and patience, I am finding that these actions are becoming more natural and easier to do. They start to become more of who I am and I don’t feel as if I am faking either.

4.Build On Those Skills
It’s remarkable how similar the process of skill building is with counseling and guitar playing. With the guitar, there are basic chords that beginner guitarists learn, as they are the foundation of most songs. With counseling, there are basic foundational skills that counselors must first learn. After learning the basic skills, guitarists will start to branch off into unique areas of interest. For example, some may go the rock direction, or some may choose to focus on playing the blues, and some will go the country music route. And still other guitarists will be eclectic and have a preference to a combination of styles. Even in my program, there were many different directions classmates were heading: school counselors, grief counselors, career counselors, mediators, etc.

5.Build Those Calluses
For guitar players, calluses are important because without them, fingers become very sore and painful and one can only play for very short periods of time. These calluses are built by the frequent playing of the guitar. If a guitarist goes for too long without playing, the calluses disappear and the player must go through the painful experience again. Similar to counseling, I must build up fortitude to keep practicing and learning. Being focused and coming back is what keeps guitarists and counselors able to continue building on skills. Like the saying goes, no pain no gain.

6.Seek help of mentors
One of the best pieces of advice I received was to surround myself with highly skilled counseling mentors. These are people that inspire me to enhance my abilities because they enthusiastically offer deeper perspectives and ideas of the counseling field. Likewise, I find myself seeking expert guitar players that push me to the next level. I find it very useful to play with guitarists that are beyond my skill base, because it gives me the extra push and motivation to keep trying.



Jackie Torres is a counselor in Colorado with a particular interest in the world of work. She enjoys helping people find what makes them feel strong and energized at work. She is also learning to play the guitar.

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