I had long entertained the prospect of becoming a therapist before entering graduate school. I had many of the same concerns that many recently graduated students with Bachelor’s degrees do: Am I competitive enough? Will I be able to handle the work? Is this really what I want to do? What if I try and I’m wrong? What if I don’t try and I was right? What if I’m too much of a ‘case’ myself to be a good therapist?
I eventually put these concerns aside and began searching for a counseling program that ‘fit’ me. I dreamed of counseling schools focusing on mindfulness or used meditation and was particularly drawn to Naropa - a Buddhist inspired university in Colorado. Gaining perspective in my search however, I determined that I needed to attend a CACREP program as these were safer and more reliable investments than a risky program that ‘spoke’ to me. So, my now-husband and I began generating a list of cities that had both med schools for him and CACREP programs for me, which is how I wound up at the University of Cincinnati.
There, I began doing the things we’re all familiar with in graduate school and on occasion a little more. One of the most memorable moments was during an internship where I was working on a diagnostic assessment. I had been comfortable with the assessment itself, but as I looked at the “Diagnosis and Rationale” portion I was writing, I was suddenly daunted by the task at hand. I took it to my supervisor asking, “What do you want me to put here?” She replied “That’s your job. You diagnose people now.” Suddenly, it hit me. I was becoming a professional, an expert. Using the DSM-5 and drawing on my argumentative roots as a philosophy major, I then provided what I considered to be a viable and supported diagnosis based on my history taking and reading of DSM-5 criteria. I thought I had arrived.
However, I soon, realized that I will never arrive and ‘be’ a professional. Even the professionals I looked up to were still learning, striving, and growing. Indeed, that is what I admire about them. I can ‘become’ more professional, or more knowledgeable in a topic, but this is a process to me that will never be completed. I began expanding my scope by engaging in ethics competitions, publishing an article, and presenting at my first ACA conference. Each of these was fulfilling and invigorating, yet never completed the task at hand. I had fallen in love with the process of ‘becoming’, and in doing so felt more being than I ever had. It is an old Platonic concept that in our becoming, we simply arrive at who we already were - an excavation and uncovering of the self. The words of Saul Williams on Blackalicious’s album Blazing Arrow seem to capture Plato well: “All. All that I am I have been. All that I have been has been coming. I am becoming all that I am.”
I am becoming a professional counselor. This becoming feels familiar, comfortable, yet also novel and challenging. Through this blog, I’m hoping to share with others the process of my becoming. Though new to this form of media, it is my hope that it provides a space for me to share ideas, explore opinions, and to learn from my mistakes as well as to reflect on accomplishments. In doing so I hope to become a better professional, as well as to provide others with a window into my process and experience.
Ben Hearn is a new professional who is currently working as a school-based counselor. He is passionate about working with trauma and enjoys applying the fields of neuroscience, philosophy, ethics, and psychopharmacology to counseling practice.