Why have we decided to follow the path to become counselors? We, as counselors-in-training, are often asked this question. At different times I’ve come up with various responses. Another apt question is: what are we going to do with our counseling education and subsequent career? I have realized over the past few months how important social advocacy is to me and that I intend it to be the cornerstone of my counseling pursuits.
This realization seems very recent, however, if I think back I have always been somewhat of a social justice advocate. I can recall at the dinner table during my childhood many times I was told by my parents to “get down from my soapbox” and to get the heck off of my “high horse” when I would preach my views on politics or women’s rights. The lack of support from my family simply fueled my questioning of authority. I became involved in the protests against the proliferation of nuclear power plants in the 80’s attending the famous anti-nuke rally in Manhattan. I wore a willowy, gauzy blouse and worn blue jeans; my hair free and curly. My parents caught my image on the news that night. I had cut school to follow my heart and, yea, there was a BIG discussion with my folks about THAT. But I digress – back to the subject at hand – I do have this need in me to help others, but what do we think about the role of social justice in the field of mental health counseling?
Inherently all counseling is social advocacy in the sense that it is designed to help clients operate optimally in the context of society. However, I feel increasingly drawn to being very specific in the focus of social justice counseling. I have been fortunate to have been accepted for an internship at the Women’s Center of Greater Danbury in Connecticut for this coming fall.
I am readying myself for certification training in both domestic violence and sexual abuse in the summer. I look forward to using my good intentions to fuel actual help for those in need, but I am trying to be just shy of idealistic. I know this is hard work with, at times, with very little reward – but it seems, to me, absolutely necessary.
I recently joined Counselors for Social Justice, a sub-division of ACA. Here is the description of their mission found on their website: What is Counselors for Social Justice?
“The mission of Counselors for Social Justice is to work to promote social justice in our society through confronting oppressive systems of power and privilege that affect professional counselors and our clients and to assist in the positive change in our society through the professional development of counselors.”
It seems like a large nut to crack – but I think in small ways with our clients we can all help make our world more just – even if it is simply through empowering one family or helping one client alleviate her symptoms. An interest in how the world works and they ways in which we can make it better can be a natural part of mental health counseling – no soapbox required.
For more information about the CSJ go to http://counselorsforsocialjustice.com/A sub-division of ACA.
Susan Jennifer Polese is a counselor in training, a personal coach and a freelance writer. Her areas of interest are mindfulness, divergent thinking, and creativity in counseling.