Tuesday was the last day of my practicum. I couldn’t believe it was over! Time had flown by and I had spent 400 hours between counseling clients, researching, reading, and discussing cases. Right after I left my site, I met with my individual supervisor at my school to discuss my experience. One of the questions she invited me to reflect on was the highs and lows of my practicum. After mentioning a few highs and lows she asked me, “What about the woman who said you were too young to be her counselor?” I had completely suppressed that incident from my memory.
A few weeks into my practicum a woman about fifty years old told me in the middle of our first session that I was too young to be her counselor. I was both shocked and disappointed because she had expressed having felt really comfortable with me during the intake assessment and I had felt a connection with her during the first half of our session. Suddenly, she was telling me that she didn’t want me to take it personal but her problems were related to her age and she wanted to see someone older. I reflected, “You think I’m too young to understand you” and added, “.. but I understand, these sessions are about you, and I want you to feel comfortable and get the most out of them so I will check if a therapist your age is available to see you”
Throughout the day, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. How many clients were going to think that I was too young to be their counselor? I googled counselors that have had similar experiences and I didn’t find anything. I started to wonder how many jobs was I going to be denied from for being “too young”. Would age influence other people’s perception of my competence? After all, it is often said that experience comes with age. Luckily, later that day I was scheduled to see my individual supervisor.
My supervisor shared some experiences when her age was brought up in sessions along with an analogy that she often uses when there’s nobody to refer a client to. Her analogy consisted on asking her clients to imagine they had a broken leg and giving them the option to be treated either by someone who also had a broken leg or a specialist with the necessary training. Most clients say, “The specialist”.
As not all clients will agree, it was important for me to understand that a counselor will not be the right fit for all clients. While this is a no brainer, as a beginner counselor I knew this in theory but not in practice. Being rejected by a client for the first time hurt. However, I learned that this will not always be the case. In the future, some of my clients may benefit for my young age or other skills that are unique to me, such as being bilingual, and who knows maybe someday someone will tell me, “You are too old to be my counselor”
Alejandra Delgado is a counselor-in-training at the University of Florida. She volunteers as a Crisis Line Counselor and works as the School-Based Program Specialist at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mid-Florida.