When I was younger, I often found my career aspirations in movies and television. After watching the television show ER, I wanted to become an emergency room doctor. Similarly, watching the movie Dr. Dolittle inspired me to go to veterinary school. In high school I even toyed with the idea of becoming an actress, proclaiming that as an actress, I could be anything I wanted to be. Thankfully, my drama teacher pointed out there was a reason I had no speaking parts for four straight years.
Lately I’ve begun thinking about the media’s portrayal of counselors. While viewers can choose among a variety of shows documenting and dramatizing doctors, lawyers, and law enforcement officers, there are only a few shows that highlight the counseling profession. Although I am certain that many doctors, lawyers, and law enforcement officers will readily say, “It’s not like it is on TV or in the movies”, I admit I am slightly envious. Some may argue that other professions simply make for more interesting or entertaining stories, but I, and I am slightly biased, disagree. It may be rhetorical to ask, but what could be more interesting than counseling?
An avid puzzle player, I find counseling another individual to be the ultimate puzzle. The very nature of counseling requires the counselor to determine the best course of action to take with the client. The first step in counseling is to assemble a basic outline of the client’s personal history. Once the foundation is in place, more and more pieces of the client are revealed and it is up to the counselor to decide which piece fits where. As with any jigsaw or crossword puzzle, this takes time, effort, and a sharp eye for detail. Upon completion, the counselor has discovered the bigger picture that is the client.
Similarly, trying to decide which approach would best suit the client and the techniques to present can be like an opening chess move. With each decision the counselor makes, he or she must ultimately decide if this approach or technique is in the client’s best interest. Careful planning and the ability to visualize many possibilities are attributes of chess players and counselors alike.
While the mainstream media may not have fully embraced counseling, I think counseling is one that is both exciting and interesting.
Hayley Wilson is a counselor-in-training at Florida Atlantic University. Her areas of interest include military service members and PTSD, substance abuse, and coffee.