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Christian Billington Sep 27, 2011

Conversations With Strangers

I am not sure if it’s the innate counselor in me or just the social extrovert I was raised to be, but I seem to get into brief and yet scintillating conversations with complete strangers from all walks of life on a daily basis. And truth be known, I really enjoy it.

Is this fondness of conversation and connection a common theme in counselors’ beginnings? Did everyone who frequents the ACA web site grow up wanting to be a counselor? Are you sitting there, reading this blog, nodding your head, smiling and knowing exactly what I am talking about? I certainly did not grow up with a dream of being a therapist despite the cool tweed jackets, unkempt grey beard, pipe and old worn leather couches (“Tell me how you’re feeling...”) that I understood counseling to be.

So how exactly did we all decide to be counselors? I am sure each of us has their own reason, just as we have our own unique personalities, experiences and world views. My own motivation is clear, and best captured in my opening sentences above: I love making connections with other human beings. Certainly, in my experience as a paramedic, the art of conversation – and yes I do think it is an art form, with its own skill set - and offering comfort were key facets of the position. And while counseling is clearly about a great deal more than just good conversation, I can’t help but wonder if those random short conversations at bus stops, walking to work and traveling in elevators all led toward my current MA study, to the practicum experience that I currently revel in and to my future work as a counselor.

How wonderful is a career where we get to grow as humans and as professionals and share our experiences with others? And instead of brief conversations, like ships passing in the night, we are encouraged to develop therapeutic relationships with clients to a deeper level that benefits not only the client but it teaches us at the same time? Understanding the self and why we are as we are is a key foundational principle of counseling and something that I have spent a long time processing and considering these past four years. I am a better person for it.

So what brings you to our profession?

And welcome.

Christian Billington is a counselor in training. He is passionate about end of life issues, grief and loss, trauma and the development of training to better prepare the emergency services for what they experience in the field.

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