Considering a Career Change? An Inside Look at the Field of Therapy/Counseling

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This is the third post in a three-post series examining different career options. 

The field of therapy has always intrigued me. What’s more compelling than understanding why people do what they do – or more rewarding that helping them live better lives? To better understand what being a therapist actually entails, I reached out to one woman I know and admire who has been in this profession for over 15 years and is now running her own very active private practice.

Here’s her insight – the pros and the cons of being a therapist:

What do you do & since when?
I am a counselor/therapist. Officially I am a LMHC (licensed mental health counselor). I received my degree in 1995.

What attracted you to this industry/field?
What attracted me to the field is people and their stories. I never get bored listening to people’s stories. The story of their childhoods and then the stories and behaviors that emerge from there impact so much of how they navigate the world. And of course there is the genetic piece. The two are always interfacing.

What are the the biggest rewards of your field?
When you can see a client moving in the direction they say they want to go — that is lovely.

The biggest challenges?
It’s very hard for people to make cognitive or behavioral changes. It requires an enormous amount of discipline and willingness to tolerate the anxiety that comes with change. Many people say they want to make changes, but they are often unwilling to do the hard work and opt for the devil they know.

What is the most important quality/skill for success in your field?
I think the most important quality is that you continue to work on yourself, keep reaching for raising your own level of awareness, and that you continue to educate yourself about new windows in — whether it’s meditation, diet, exercise, breath work, energy work etc. Everything is connected. And being a good listener.

What is the outlook for your field?
Mental health is not a priority in this country. And with healthcare in general being such a mess, I guess I’d say the outlook is not great. We seem to be headed in the pharmaceutical direction. Medications can be very helpful but the puzzle has so many more pieces.

Do you have advice for those considering going into counseling/therapy?
If you work in any kind of agency or institutional setting, the caseloads are overwhelming (never mind the paperwork) because money is so tight and for me that would make for a lot of sleepless nights. Private practice works well for me, but the down sides are 1) insurance companies keep paying less to providers and 2) mental health benefits may continue to shrink as people try to scramble for more affordable health insurance. The system needs to change.

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