Counselor Awareness: Conversation Matters.
Last weekend, I had the pleasure of catching up with some of my girl friends over brunch. When the conversation turned to me, I proceeded to share some things I am learning and currently experiencing in my doctoral program. While my friends have an idea of my occupation and studies, I realized that they, similar to the general public, may not have the opportunity to understand what counseling really is or the process/training involved in becoming a counselor. This led me to reflect on the importance of the ACA’s mission in April of Counselor Awareness month. Having this informal conversation made me realize how advocacy for our profession can come from simple beginnings.
There are times when people ask me what I do for a living and I usually give them a generic response, “student” or people may ask me why I am traveling, when I am there for a professional conference, but I say “business”. But, these could all be opportunities to increase awareness in our profession. I am guilty of adding to the misunderstanding of my profession by not embracing these moments for potential growth. Beginning these conversations can have real life benefits by destigmatizing services/mental health issues, providing a foundation for informed consumers, and providing opportunities for people to ask questions.
It’s a privilege not a punishment.
Documentation is a necessity in our field. Without proper documentation, not only are we liable but we’ve done a grave injustice to our clients---not to mention the ethical implications. Even at the master’s level, novice counselors are indoctrinated in thinking that documentation is a scary endeavor with serious consequences. Instead of looking at documentation as a tedious activity that measures productivity, outcomes, or billing---let us work to change the culture. Because it truly is a privilege to be people’s lives in the capacity that we are. Sitting down and completing documentation is a part of the process. It helps us become better counselors when we can look back at what we’ve done and what didn’t work for our clients. Also, in serious crisis or safety situations, it provides a platform for us to stand on. What we write is a part of someone’s life, however brief our time is with them or however small our role—that is a privilege.
Strive---don’t just survive.
It’s coming to the end of the Spring semester, which means final exams, projects, and papers are due. I usually operate on a constant level of stress and anxiety, but there is a noticeable increase in these feelings towards the end of the semester. Despite how long I’ve been in school, every end of the semester seems like the last climb up to the summit. (This one is no exception). Several times this week, I caught myself saying “I just need to survive or make it through to…tomorrow, next week, past this presentation…etc.” I know some of my colleagues feel the same way too and are probably nodding their heads in agreement.
What’s wrong with this thought is that it creates a frenzy of feelings that end up preventing me from being present, appreciating opportunities, and being kind to myself. This realization all came together, when my partner listened to my feelings and kindly reminded me not to be so hard on myself. As simple as that request is, and as much as I like to think I have an abundance of self-awareness, I genuinely needed that reminder and support. Truth is, as much as is a working through a doctoral program seems like a solitary endeavor--it’s actually quite the opposite. While this started out as a personal goal—it’s become increasingly apparent that—I am not doing all the “work”. Balancing an academic schedule and workload are not possible without those messages of encouragement, those thoughtful actions of support…and the understanding that it may just be the sleep deprivation “talking.” There are significant people in my life that make this unique endeavor possible. They make my load feel lighter. So, if not just for myself, these people are a motivator to strive---not just survive
________________________________________________________________________ Monica Paige Band is a counselor working in Northern Virginia and holds a certification in Rehabilitation Counseling. Monica is also a doctoral student, studying Counselor Education and Supervision at Marymount University. Her interests include multicultural issues, motivational interviewing, clinical supervision processes, as well as career and professional development.