The intention of this paper is to examine the rationale for seeking a counseling degree. I will look at look at personality characteristics that are commonly accepted in the counseling profession along with comparing and contrasting personality characteristics. I will examine how personality characteristics can influence counseling approaches and counseling styles. I will also take a research how functional transferrable skills may be applied. This paper will then review what some of the possible professional counseling settings could be. Seeking a Degree in Counseling
Numerous reasons exist about why one would seek out a mental health counseling degree. Some sincere motives will naturally outshine self-seeking intentions. After much exploring and contemplating, I established several genuine reasons for coming to the decision to seek a counseling degree. One of the main driving forces for seeking a counseling degree was to guide, and encourage other individuals to use their natural abilities and assist them in finding their own inner strength and intuition. I want to support clients in finding their own power and encourage them to realize that they always have options and that whatever obstacles they may face; the choice of the outcome is always theirs to make. Change may be difficult or complex and can often be harder than struggling with what one already knows. Ultimately this writer wants to show others that even if it is a slow process, if one is persistent anything is possible. The goal is to enlighten others to advocate for themselves and help them to analyze and evaluate what it is that they wish to change or help them build on their own talents to enhance their lives and themselves. As mentioned in the preceding paragraph, countless reasons exist that one may elect to go into the helping profession, in particularly counseling. I aspire to enhance others’ lives by teaching them to make the most of the skills that they already have and build upon what they know to help clients reach their full potential. This would be done by encouraging and showing them how to make positive changes. That could include anything that may be negatively affecting them such as relationships, additions, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, grief, fears, and so on. I believe it is important to influence others through leading by example in daily life in addition to always giving support where it is needed. I want to work with those that struggle with any issues mentioned above as well as working with clients on self esteem, self worth and dependency issues. I plan to work with clients seeking assistance with parenting issues and help those that are dealing with family difficulties. Clients with child or adolescent issues, employment, life coaching, domestic violence, and those that are dealing with gay or lesbian issues are another interest that I aim to counsel. I would love to facilitate groups in any of these topics and would also like to show all survivors that one does not have to be controlled to be loved; furthermore one does not need to control a partner to be loved. I believe that one should treat others with respect, dignity and cultural sensitivity. Counselors should always be aware of biases and have insight into issues that concern them. I think that a mental health counselor has to always be aware of their role as a therapist. I think that defining your role as the therapist while building rapport is essential for being effective as well as ethical. Ideal Personality Characteristics
Although professional counselors are independent individuals they share several core characteristics. Those morals, values, and personality characteristics are considered ideal for those who are in the mental health counseling profession. Ideally all mental health professionals should possess an authentic desire to want to help those clients that they serve. The counselor should seek ways to genuinely enlighten as well as guide their clients in their best interest. Additionally they should always remember that it is the client they are serving not their own interests. I as all perspective counseling students should took a look at the ideal characteristics and compared and contrasted the various attributes considered ideal for a counselor to possess. Commonly Accepted Characteristics
Various universally acceptable characteristics exist for counselors. Professional counseling characteristics are similar to one another on the basis that ideal characteristics strive to understand the client while doing what is in the client’s best interest. To assert that there is only one ideal characteristic that makes for an ideal counselor would not be just. There are a number of model characteristics that this writer shares with those characteristics that are commonly accepted as ideal. Comparing and Contrasting
During self reflection this writer noted that they possessed most of the personality traits that are considered ideal characteristics for a professional mental health counselor to acquire. Since there are many characteristics this writer will name a few of the ones they feel are particularly imperative. A few crucial attributes that a counselor would want to indisputably posses is passion for the counseling field, compassion for the client or clients, sincere empathy, as well as understanding, and the capability to be intuitive, while being humble and unpretentious. The ideal counselor would need to be creative which would allow them to brainstorm and think outside of the box. It is critical that the counselor be honest as well as an active listener. The counselor must have faith in themselves and believe in the client and trust that things can change, all the while remembering that every person at some point, including oneself can and will make mistakes. One must always remember their professional place and be aware of biases and never judge. The following personal characteristics are needed for effective counseling according to Knowles and Barr “sympathetic understanding, emotional stability, easy and cordial manner, approachability, interest in people, flexibility and adaptability, sense of passion, patience, a capacity for being trusted by people, a warm, friendly personality, commitment to individual human values, and open-mindedness”(p.574). They state that the reason for this is straightforward seeing that counseling is a people-oriented profession. The traits that were reinforced repeatedly was that counselors should exude are warmth, acceptance, understanding, and friendliness. The words they used are non-judgmental, non-evaluative, committed, and confident. The people who are attracted into counseling as a profession, and especially those considered to be the “best” counselors, are very much people-oriented (Knowles & Barr). I evaluated their personality traits to those traits Knowless and Barr thought were imperative and found that almost all of those traits were a perfect match. There is however always room for improvement so this writer will work on being more laid-back which will permit the remainder of the positive attributes to stay prominent. I feel that an additional noteworthy factor in being an ideal counselor lies with how well a proficient counselor can leave work at the office. Often times there are struggles in this career to balance both the professional side of your life as well as the personal side. Counselors ought to discover what it is that they can utilize as a positive outlet when not acting in a professional capacity. If therapists do not seek out their own personal interests outside of the office they are then setting themselves up for failure, as well as the clients that they serve. Not finding the self care that is needed would lead to burnout on top of not being as effective in the lives of those around them. Sprang, Clark, and Whitt-Woosley (2007) examined the relationships between three variables and also explored individual and relative characteristics specific to providers and their settings. They found that secondary trauma is very valid and different factors, such as rural or urban, age, years of experience, and so on all have an influence on the way that the professional experience vicarious trauma. That being said is one reason why specific training and self care is of the utmost importance. This also demonstrates the necessity for ongoing research, education, and prevention. This is why I feel that self-care is a critical step in this profession that many forget to do. Self-care would be different to each and every individual however some type of self care must be a preventative approach that is practiced daily. Counseling Approaches and Styles
All counselors have their own distinctive personality characteristics which lead them to their particular unique counseling approaches and styles. I have found that most therapists use an array of styles or methods. I believe that using an assortment of styles is the best approach that one can use. An eclectic approach allows the counselor to take a number of different styles and merge them into one to find the fit that is best suited to them and their clients. Unless you are a devoted follower to one specific style then being able to intermingle diverse approaches will allow one to tailor the therapy to the needs of all involved. For illustration if working on family therapy with a family unit in a household of 6, which includes a grandfather age 70, grandmother age 55, mother age 25, son age 11, daughter age 7, and a daughter age 4, the counseling styles and approaches would be different with all clients. The therapist would have to modify the approaches for it to be effective with each individual in regards to their age, sex, role in the family, developmental level as well as the reason that brought them into therapy in the first place. Using the exact approach with all of the previously mentioned family members restricts the therapist in fine-tuning the techniques to better fit each individual in a technique that may be better suited to their learning style. I personally believe that I will continuously modify my style as I gain more insight and wisdom as the years pass. There will always be research that is conducted on new approaches this will continue and the techniques that one once practiced will merge into new ways of thinking. I feel that a number of the finest concepts often come from more than one idea. At this moment in time my viewpoint leans towards the behavioral cognitive therapies in addition to the humanistic therapies. I find that I am drawn to the behavioral cognitive therapies as it links into the integrative and eclectic therapies. I feel that the humanistic approach is client centered in addition to encouraging the growth of all individuals and has the client’s well being in mind. I recently realized that I was fond of the emotionally focused therapies. I like the fact that it is a structured approach and that it can be used with families. Hypnotherapies as well as interpersonal psychotherapy are couple of additional styles that I feel are fascinating and would be interested in learning more about them. I would love to have the flexibility to be employed in various settings. I am open-minded and find that I am not interested in only one type of setting. I think that working in one particular location would limit my experience and I am interested in being well informed in various areas as well as settings. I want to gain experience in various group therapies in a not for profit agency setting. Working with at risk or incarcerated youth, teens with eating disorders or cutting issues, as well as parenting. I would be interested in seeking employment in an organization that provides services such as the employee assistance programs. Working in an in a state agency or with the courts is an additional location that I want to be employed in. Working with court mandated referrals for domestic violence, family or child issues, and probation or parole. Relevant Functional Transferable Skills
It is my understanding that relevant functional transferable skills are all of the broad-spectrum skills that you assemble over the years of relating to others, going to school, life experiences, and information that you have acquired in your life. According to Bolles (2011) he advises people to not confuse transferable skills with traits, seeing that traits along with temperaments are often confused with the transferable skills. There are numerous skills that can be applied to the counseling profession. A few of the functional skills that I believe are of the utmost importance to a mental health counselor are discovering, explaining, having responsibility, motivating, analyzing, expressing, investigating, diagnosing, empathizing, observing, researching, utilizing, and identifying. There are several more functionally transferable skills that could have been listed, however the ones that I chose to list above were chosen because they are all core skills that would be needed for a counselor to do an adequate job with their clients. Post Graduate Counseling Setting
My hope and dream has always been to be a therapist. When I was a child other little girls wanted to grow up to become a mommy, teacher, veterinarian, or perhaps a singer or actress. I on the other hand wanted to help other people. I realized that teachers and veterinarians along with other professions like doctors do help other individuals plus they too have compassion and want the best for others. However, I always have and always will feel that my calling was a counselor or mental health professional.
Thinking back to my childhood, preteens, and teens I was constantly drawn to those that needed someone to talk to. In elementary, I was in girl scouts and helped the other girls that got picked on or couldn’t make something that we were making. In Jr. High, I was involved in a peer-helper association at school. It was an organization that was funded through the guidance counselors’ office for teens that wanted or needed other teens to talk to. It was structured so that the teens could relate to you and that maybe they would have someone to talk to that was going through or experiencing similar things. In high school, I was in an advanced child development class where I would go to an elementary school every day and help assist the teacher with their students. I found myself wanting to talk to the shy quiet ones that didn’t have any friends and appeared to be disheveled. I furthermore found myself conversing with the ones that were considered to be the bullies or trouble makers. In college I was part of the Greek community and was actively involved in both the school and community through services projects. In college I was also a big sister in the Big Brother Big Sister of America program. Mentoring and trying to get to the root of others problems has always been something that came natural to me. Counseling has always been something that I felt I was meant to do.
After becoming licensed as a mental health counselor I want to apply all the skills that I have learned along the way from past employment, self assessments, classes, others and so on. I intend to have my own private practice although I am aware that it will be years before I am ready for the responsibilities to go along with everything that comes with it. I want to always remain current in the field through of course continuing education courses and workshops as well as memberships in professional organizations. As a postgraduate I plan to network with other mental health counseling professionals and build connections to refer clients to other appropriate professionals when the need arises. I believe some of my professional duties will be to provide one on one counseling sessions, group counseling sessions, seminars, workshops and career or personal development classes. I feel that I will be able to work with groups, couples, families, individual counseling. My responsibilities will include many things, but I believe they will include keeping accurate confidential records, collaboration with other professionals and organizations, developing and implementing treatment plans that are based on the individual or individuals based on knowledge as well as clinical experience as well as revising the plans as needed. I will have also have duties such as listening to clients and assisting them to determine with issues may also need to be examined, I may help people with many different issues or work on one issue that is affecting their life. I might be working with families, couples, or individuals, along with counseling them on mental health issues, relationship concerns, career decisions or problems and a great deal more. I will be utilizing my skills as well as patience and willingness to help. I will be encouraging individuals, supporting personal growth, and well being. I want to work on prevention with clients in addition to supervising and running workshops and groups. I considerate it important to network and gather information about your communities and neighboring communities to gain insight to collaboration that may able to be utilized in therapy. I think that it is imperative to discuss with each client what they have planed if therapy is coming to an end plus assist them in setting up additional resources if necessary to ensure that they have knowledge to empower themselves. My heartfelt aspiration has always been to support individuals to transform their lives for the better. I realize that as a mental health counselor I will not be exceedingly wealthy, I furthermore know that at times it will be challenging as well draining, and I may at times feel that it is a thankless career. I do however have confidence in this profession, those who will see me professionally, and myself. Ultimately I want to show others that seek guidance that even if it is a slow process if you are persistent anything is possible. I also believe that when I think I finally got the hang of things and know what I am doing, I will soon realize and probably rather quickly that I do not. I believe that this profession is ever evolving and one can never learn it all.