Essay: Counselor as I Prepare

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¶ … Counselor

As I prepare to enter my career as a therapist, I have looked at the way that my personality will factor into my role as a counselor. I know that, because of my personality, I will bring considerable strengths to the therapist role. For example, I am open to growth and learning, which I feel will keep me from pigeonholing clients. I am a good listener, which is an essential trait in a therapist. I am able to gain confidence from clients, so that they feel comfortable sharing with me, and also feel comfortable taking my advice. I am sincere when I work with clients, and I think that my sincerity makes me more trustworthy. I am careful to preserve that trust once it is earned; I behave ethically and maintain client confidences. Furthermore, I try very hard to remain aware of my own personal and professional limitations, so that I know when to seek assistance, for my clients or for myself. In fact, knowing my limitations makes it easier for me to respond with the appropriate level of empathy for clients, demonstrating an understanding and recognition of their issues without becoming too personally involved. All of these strengths will serve me well in my role as a therapist.

However, my personality also introduces a set of challenges to becoming a successful therapist. I know that I have learned counseling skills as well as one can learn them before applying them as a therapist, however, I struggle with a lack of confidence that could hamper me as a therapist. I am worried that I will not be able to take my textbook knowledge and apply it to real-life counseling situations. In addition, I am not very confident about the use of role play in therapy and counter-transfer theory, in general. As a result, I am concerned that I may not be able to specify client concerns in a concrete manner, but may only be able to get a general idea of their concerns. If that is a problem, then I am concerned that I may not be able to facilitate resolution of client concerns, because I may have failed to properly identify them in a sufficiently concrete manner. While I know that all of these challenges can be overcome, I am equally aware that I will have to work to be very conscious of them as I embark upon my career as a therapist.

My biggest strength as a therapist and, in life in general, is that I am open to growth and learning. If one looks at the history of modern therapy, there is such a tremendous amount of growth and evolution in a very small period of time. As a professional, I know that I must remain connected to a learning environment, so that I can keep abreast of new developments in my field. I have to be open to the idea that, even if what I have been practicing has been very successful, there may be a better way to do things. I also have to be open to the idea that I am certainly going to encounter things that are completely outside of the textbook scenarios that I have studied. My general openness to learning has me confident that I will embrace new information, whether that information comes in the form of new research in the field or whether it is in the form of a client presenting a situation that is novel for me. I also think this openness will help me treat each client as an individual. I believe that if I were more closed-minded, it might be tempting to treat a client as disease or a problem, rather than as a human being. However, being open to growth and learning, I feel that I am less likely to stereotype other people.

One of my more practical strengths as a therapist is that I am a good listener. Many people view listening as a passive activity, without realizing that a good listener is very actively engaged in listening. Being a good listener means that I pay attention to what is being said, and remember it. Moreover, listeners do not just attend to what is said, but also the connotation and the voice used by the client. That means that a good listener hears the silences in a conversation and knows what questions to ask to help fill in those gaps. Because of my listening skills, I feel like I am able to really comprehend what a client is telling me about his or her issues.

Furthermore, I feel that I am able to gain confidence from my clients. I act in a way that makes it clear that my clients are going to be able to trust me, which makes it more likely that they are going to share the truth with me. There are so many different elements that go into making someone trustworthy, that I have a difficult time putting them all down on paper. However, I think that the element that makes my clients feel most confident with me is that I treat them with respect and dignity. No matter how shocked or horrified I may be by what a client tells me, I always strive to remain respectful of the client and of his humanity. Because of that respect, I feel that clients feel that they may confide in me without fear. Moreover, once they feel that they can talk to me without fear of judgment or reprisals, then I am in a better position to offer advice and encouragement to them.

I would be unable to treat my clients with dignity if I were insincere when working with clients. However, I feel that my sincerity is a great strength. First, I am in a sincere believer in the therapeutic process. I feel that a vast majority of the world's problems, both large and small, could be resolved through some type of application of the therapeutic method. Second, I am sincere in my belief that almost every person deserves the opportunity to be helped. In fact, even if presented with someone whom I do not believe that I could help, I think that my confidence in the efficacy of therapy is so strong that I could refer that person elsewhere without losing any sincerity. I also believed that my sincerity helps build up trust. Because my clients understand that I have a genuine desire to help them, they are more likely to reveal critical information earlier in therapy and are more likely to implement the changes that I suggest.

Of course, all of the sincerity in the world would be useless if I later betrayed my clients' trust. Instead, I carefully guard that trust. I make sure to behave in an ethical manner. Part of this ethical manner is treating clients with the above-mentioned respect. However, part of ethics involves understanding when and if it is appropriate to violate a client's confidence. Any therapist practicing for a length of time understands there are going to be times when one is called upon to break a client's confidence. When that becomes an issue, I want to make sure that my client's are prepared for the possibility. I inform my clients that there are some things that I am obligated by law to report, and I do this prior to them having the opportunity to tell me anything where I may have to breach a client's confidence.

Another strength that I possess is that I am aware of my own limitations. At first blush, this strength may seem like a weakness, especially because I view a lack of confidence as one of my challenges. However, I think that one of the most dangerous things that a therapist can do is assume that he or she has all of the answers. I know that I am going to encounter issues that are beyond my experience level. In those scenarios, I will seek assistance from my mentors, to ensure that my clients receive the best treatment possible. Moreover, I expect that there will be times when certain clients and scenarios push my personal boundaries. In those instances, I will make sure to engage in appropriate self-care and respect my personal boundaries. Knowing my personal and professional limitations will keep me from compromising my clients and myself.

Some people might view an awareness of one's limitations, especially personal limitations, as a barrier to developing empathy with a client. However, a therapist needs to empathize, but not sympathize, with a client. There is a difference between understanding that someone is in pain and in vicariously living that pain through a client. I am very empathetic and am able to respond to verbal and non-verbal cues that let me know how a client is feeling, without becoming too personally involved in those feelings.

While many of my personal characteristics will make me a better therapist, I am aware that I have some personal characteristics… [END OF PREVIEW]

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