Why did I become a counselor?

 I get asked this question often. "Why did you become a counselor?" 

I didn't set out to become a counselor - I wanted to be a journalist. I went to journalism school with the idea that I'd be a writer. I'm not exactly sure for what, as I didn't want to be a daily newspaper reporter. I remember writing a profile on a travel agent in my college town and I hated that she wanted to read it. I had a pretty big hang-up with how the subjects of my stories might interpret what I was writing. Nor did I care for journalism school's cynical nature - I just didn't have the energy for it. 

I left college and started working in a marketing job that wasn't very fulfilling. Just a few months in, I decided I needed to do something more meaningful with my life. I remember thinking what I was doing everyday didn't matter, that I could stop and no one would notice, that my job didn't have to exist and no one would be asking for it. 

I decided it was time to change.

I reflected on how important my own therapist was in a difficult period of my life. She was such a support for me. Her outside perspective really challenged my rigid thinking. She had this awesome way about her that made me feel good about myself, while also challenging me to change. 

So I enrolled in a counseling Master's program. I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do with the degree when I finished, and I've been blessed to experience a variety of counseling experiences - from community mental health centers, to school systems, to private practice. I've come in contact with an array of clients struggling with a variety of issues, from severe mental illness, anxiety, depression, cutting, remarriage, and mid-life crisis. 

With experience in both fields, I've come to see the similarities in both journalism and counseling. They both rely heavily on the human experience. Telling people's stories. Making sense of the world. I just prefer the private nature of the therapy room to ignite change than the pages of the daily paper.

Unhelpful Thinking Styles ... and the Traps We Get In

I remember the first time my therapist asked me, "so what if that did happen?"

Six years later I don't even remember what we were talking about, but I remember exactly how it made me feel. Anxious. Silly. Stubborn. I knew the words coming out of my mouth sounded dumb, but it was how I knew the world to be. There was a way things should be. It's not supposed to be like this.

Knowing what I know now, I realize just how rigid my thoughts were. I'm forever indebted to that graduate student intern who nudged me into a less stressful way of being.

One of the first things I share with new clients is the Unhelpful Thinking Styles worksheet shown below. It covers several ways our mind traps us, from black and white thinking, to ignoring truths, and emotional reasoning. Just knowing the unhelpful thinking styles sometimes isn't enough. Having a therapist to catch you in these traps and challenge you to break free can bring relief almost instantly.

unhelpful thinking styles