Counselor self-care: I’m an introvert, and I’m okay!

He's an introvert, and he's okay!

My husband and I recently spent a weekend in Kansas City with a small group of friends. When we came home that Sunday afternoon, we had a few hours of rushing around and getting settled before two friends from college arrived to spend a few days helping my husband with a musical clinic. By Monday evening, I was exhausted and frantic from not getting a single second alone since Friday morning. I came home early and spent a glorious hour straightening the house and collecting myself before everyone else came home.

I’m an introvert, and I’m okay. I haven’t always been okay with that, and at some points of my life, have actively hated myself for it. Our society places a high value on extroversion, especially in the workplace. Extroverts (and even some introverts) often confuse introversion with shyness, lack of assertiveness, social anxiety, and/or just generally being a doormat. In fact, I’ve never heard a good definition of introversion and extroversion, even in my counseling classes, and had to quickly consult Psychology Today just to make sure I had it straight: Introverts expend energy during social encounters and gain it during solitary activities. Extroverts draw energy from new situations and social encounters and expend it when spent alone. (Sorry, I didn’t have any other references at my disposal when I looked these up! Wikipedia seemed worse.)

My journey to accepting this part of myself began as my husband and I entered premarital counseling with our pastor. At the very beginning, we took the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. My type came out as INTJ; my husband’s was ENFJ. We then talked about how we complemented each other and how to navigate our relationship due to our different needs. I still felt weird even though my husband has no qualms about my personality.

Fast-forward to summer 2010. We had gotten married, and I was reexamining my career goals. I needed something that better fit my personality (including introversion) and my values. Extroversion is highly prized in my current work setting, and I was painfully aware of that. One day I was messing around on Psychology Today’s website and the month’s feature story was The Revenge of the Introvert. Wait, I’m okay as I am?

Just seeing that article made me realize two things:  1) it’s absolutely fine to be introvert, and 2) counseling was probably going to be a much better career fit. Unlike the author of the article, I do enjoy social interactions and look forward to working one-on-one with people, provided I can recharge.

As I’ve learned to accept and even be proud of this part of myself, I have also learned to deliberately take time to both be social and then to recharge alone. Recharging alone gives my soul time to breathe, and that half hour of cleaning the kitchen or walking the dog after dinner is essential. However, I’m not an extreme introvert and do need time with people–I get kind of stircrazy when the house is too quiet for too long. I have learned to force myself out of the house when that happens just to be around people. On the other hand, I have learned to speak up to others when I need a few minutes to myself.

As I near my practicum and internship, I am curious how my introversion will affect my internship and future career–talking with people all day long. I may really come to value the few minutes between clients or a quiet to start or end to my day. Do any introverted counseling interns or counselors have any tips on making this transition?

P.S. Yes, the title of this post made me think of the Lumberjack Song from Monty Python. AND NOW YOU WILL TOO AHAHAHAHAAH.

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3 thoughts on “Counselor self-care: I’m an introvert, and I’m okay!

  1. I’m an extrovert and I’m okay! I sleep all night and I work all day!

    Funny you mention your Myers-Briggs personalities. I’m actually an ENFJ and I’m pretty sure boyfriend is an ENTP. He’s never been tested, but based on how we fit, I think that’s what he is.

    Introverts totally rock in the counseling profession. I think it makes sense that you want to work with older adults, probably on an individual basis. That’s very consistent with the introvert personality. I like one-on-one, but I really love facilitating a counseling group… kinda fits with my extroversion. We’re still both totally capable of empathy and that’s what counts! 🙂

  2. Agreed! One of the practical things that draws me to counseling is the ability to work one-on-one with people. I tend to get lost in groups, even with groups of friends, although leading class groups turned out okay. I’ll be doing some groups in practicum/internship for sure. I need extroverts in my life! My husband and extrovert friends keep me grounded in the outside world.

  3. Pingback: This month, in the Family Resources e-newsletter… « Feet in Two Worlds

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