Dear Future Counselor,
Now that you have decided to become a professional helper, I want to welcome you to the field! It won’t be easy and it won’t always be neat and tidy, but it will be the most satisfying thing you have ever done. As I think back to my own journey from ‘thinking about counseling’ to ‘actually counseling,’ I remember some key elements.
We all have a story that led to our passion.
Ask any professional counselor (and that includes licensed professionals and school counselors) ‘what made you choose counseling?’ and you will hear the story. It is usually a tale of heartbreak, perseverance, pain, and victory. The teller will probably explain how an important person, perhaps a counselor, clergy member, or family member, listened and served as a guide through the fire. The professional counselor may then relate how this experience led to the desire to become a helper and provide hurting people with the same unconditional positive regard he or she received.
Once we decided that we could not live a moment longer without actually becoming a counselor, we started our training. Not gonna lie, the search for the perfect school has gotten a little more complicated (CACREP, non-CACREP, online, etc.) over the years. I cannot emphasize enough Future Counselor, the importance of choosing a school that will actually enable you to get PAID once you have your almighty license or certification. Even if you earn your master’s degree and pass your exams, many organizations and third party payers (think insurance panels, the VA, some schools) will NOT hire you (or pay you) if you went to the wrong type or insufficiently accredited counseling program. Choose wisely.
Speaking of exams…
Yes, there is an exam. Also, you will have to be supervised, evaluated, and followed closely for THOUSANDS of hours while you practice your craft as an intern. Once you are fully licensed/certified you will continue gaining continuing education and passing exams tailored to ethics knowledge in order to stay licensed/certified. The learning and growing never end!
“I’m a good listener, why should I go through all of that?”
A license protects the public from individuals who may be ‘good listeners,’ but don’t have the skills to help. Ditto with school counselor certification. If you choose to practice without a license, that is grounds for a conviction. If a school district hires you to be their school counselor and you are not certified, then you, and the students you serve, are being set up for failure.
So, dear Future Counselor, the stakes are high
But in the end, it is worth it.