The mid-program freakout

Have you ever read something that shouldn’t get under your skin, but you totally let it anyway? That’s how I felt about this post from the ACA’s own blog. Mr. Neace’s post fed the insecurities I was feeling about my chosen path and even added some new ones. Factor in stressful times at home and work, and I was kind of a mess. It happens. (And as I realize now, looking back, I did a good job doing the “wise” things outlined by Mr. Neace.)

I had–and still have–some major hesitations. First of all, can I ever be effective? There is so much to know about the counseling field, and some days, I feel like I’m just not getting it. Then, can I ever be effective with diverse clients? I am extremely blessed to have lived a really privileged life so far, and worry about being out of touch even though I will try my best to learn and empathize. And last, is there a place for me? My interests lie in those universal issues that can affect anyone: grief, depression, life transitions, infertility, death and dying, chronic illnesses, caregiving, etc. I don’t want to work with children or teens, and in fact, I prefer older adults. I want to write. I want to teach. My peers’ interests are typically a little different, as many would like to work with children, teens, addictions, the justice system, sex offenders. Kudos to them. Does that mean I’m too weak to counsel others? Where is my niche?

My fears and confusion were really getting me down and it was time to sort all that out. I figured I’d first talk to my own counselor–counselors-in-training should do that anyway, right? And it was in her office that I realized I was really fascinated with her job and wanted to help others make positive changes. She helped me realize that I still love the field, but that I might be taking a different path than my classmates and it’s okay. Thank you, thank you, dear counselor. I will find my niche if I keep my eyes open for opportunities, just like I’ve done for all of my life.

Later that week, I was able to consult with a much-trusted professor. She helped assuage some fears on actually being able to help clients, especially diverse clients. I can’t fool myself–practicum/internship will be the hardest learning experiences of my life, but in the end, these experiences will be the most rewarding. And like learning all new things, one day I’ll wake up and realize that (name a skill) has become second nature and I can move on to more advanced things. I play two instruments and know how hard but rewarding practicing can be. I forgot that this applies to counseling as well!

She also suggested I seek an internship at a college counseling center. I’m still not sure about that, but I’ll add that suggestion to my list as I look for internships. Also on the list: nursing homes, hospices, hospitals, and private practice.

As I prepare for practicum this summer, I’m relieved to have some things sorted out. Most importantly, I am exactly where I need to be right now. I’m in good hands with the faculty at my school, and one day, I will have that moment when I realize I’ve gotten the basics and it’s time to move on. It will still be insanely tough and intense, but it will be okay. My career path–like it always has–will work itself out. I have many strengths, and they’re not the same as some of my classmates, and that’s okay. Actually, it’s great! All the while, I’ll be actively plugging away at my writing, both here and through other projects. It will be all okay. It will be more than okay–it will be wonderful and fulfilling and I will make a living at it, because I know I can. Thanks, Mr. Neace. I kind of hated your guts about a month ago, but I guess your mission has been accomplished because at least this counseling student did some serious searching.

That, of course, does not mean I’ve put my fears and issues behind me for good. Is anyone else out there struggling with questions and doubts as they begin a counseling career, or did you? Does anyone else work with similar groups or issues? Does anyone have any internship site ideas I may have missed?

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