You love listening to your friends’ problems and weighing in with your thoughts. You love delving deep into your romantic partners’ emotional states, revealing vulnerabilities to better understand them and yourself. Everyone always says you should go into counseling – but would you actually make a good counselor?
An ear for gossip or a nose into other people’s business aren’t good traits for those wishing to enter the counseling profession. Before you enroll in your first psychology class, you should devise your answers to the following important questions.
Do you care about others?
Above all else, counselors should want to make other people’s lives easier. It might seem silly to ask this question – any supposedly good person should immediately answer yes, right? – but the fact is that plenty of people are more selfish than they care to admit. If you are primarily interested in the counseling career for its flexibility, its autonomy, its salary or any other benefit it would give to you, you might not be a successful counselor.
Can you keep a secret?
It isn’t just polite to keep your clients’ confessions to yourself – it’s the rules. The American Psychological Association’s Code of Ethics dictates that anything said during a counseling session is confidential, unless it pertains to certain types of crimes in certain jurisdictions. Therefore, if you can’t help but share the latest gossip, you should probably pursue a different career, like journalism.
Are you inquisitive?
Counselors need to dig deep into scenarios to understand them fully and develop solutions. Ideally, your personal drive to know as much as possible will push you toward uncovering the root of patients’ problems. A good indication of your natural curiosity is your drive to learn – perhaps even your enrollment in an online counseling master’s program – as well as your observant nature and astute ability to ask the right questions at the right times.
Are you tolerant?
Clients come to counseling seeking help for problems they can’t bring to other people or else can’t resolve on their own. Often, these problems concern the deepest, darkest secrets imaginable, and many clients will explain thoughts, emotions, behaviors and actions that run counter to a counselor’s personal moral beliefs. However, it isn’t your job to spread your own beliefs; thus, as a counselor, you will need an abundance of tolerance for alternative lifestyles and an ability to keep deleterious judgements to yourself.
Are you creative?
We might never know exactly how the human brain works; it is much too complex an organ – and we are much too simple in our comprehension – for us to be able to resolve complex mental struggles with a high degree of rigor. As a result, all counselors must be creative in their methods of searching for, identifying and treating problems faced by their patients. Every case is unique, and every case will require you to develop new strategies for success, which means creativity is key.
Are you good at listening?
If you talk more than you listen, you aren’t well-suited to this profession. Counselors must listen attentively – not just with their ears but also with their eyes and their emotions. People communicate subtly with their entire beings, and counselors must be able to pick up on the smallest cues to identify challenges and find solutions.
Are you comfortable talking to anyone?
This is somewhat related to the issue of tolerance, but you should also be comfortable around all types of people. You should be able to open up to clients of all races, political parties, nationalities, socioeconomic backgrounds, religions and cultures, so that they will feel comfortable opening up to you. If you are incapable of holding a conversation with someone slightly different from you, you might not feel comfortable as a counselor.
Can you solve puzzles easily?
It might sound silly, but you might want to start practicing riddles. Almost always, the answers to patients’ problems are not obvious; counselors need to apply logic to limited information to sift through the useless data and identify issues. Having a natural talent for lateral thinking or being adept at solving puzzles swiftly can be a major boon for would-be counselors.
Do you understand yourself well?
The last thing a struggling client needs is to deal with a struggling counselor. Before you embark on a career in counseling, you should take time to understand your own biases, your personality and moral convictions, your past traumas and more. By performing regular introspection, you can reduce the likelihood that your problems will impact your clients, which will make you a more successful counselor for years to come.