When I first began the Master of Arts program in Counseling at West Virginia University in the fall of 2002, I honestly never knew just how much I’d grow to love this field of work. Sure, I was interested in psychology and the workings of the human mind and behavior, but I never expected that being a therapist could ever become so intertwined in my heart and affect my very soul and being.
From the very first time that I sat in a small room with a grieving young woman as she expressed raw emotion to me, a student intern at the time, I learned that just being there to listen as she cried meant more to her than I could have ever imagined. It was then that I learned that people often just want to be heard, to be listened to. On that day, I learned that there was no way I could be in this field of work and not be deeply affected. I felt the young woman’s pain, the hurt swelling up inside of her, and with that, I couldn’t help but want to try to help her somehow. The training I received had prepared me with a number of ways I could try to help, but it was my heart that showed me the way.
I’ve learned quite a bit since I saw my first client nearly 14 years ago, but what I realized – what I never could have predicted – was just how much I would truly love being a therapist. It takes enormous strength for a person to undergo therapy, and I am humbled and honored that someone could put the kind of trust in me that they need to have in order to dig deep within themselves and show me who they really are, to trust me to help them in the way I am trained to do. There are so many reasons why I love being a therapist, but if I could only choose five, this is what I would tell you…
5 Reasons Why I Love Being a Therapist
I’ve had one too many of my own experiences where I needed help – like, really needed help – and I thought no one was there. In some instances, I had to learn to help myself and be my own advocate, if you will. Those rough times may have made me stronger, but how nice it would have been if someone had been there to guide me. That’s the job of a therapist. Not someone to coddle you or do the work for you, but someone to provide a listening ear, unconditional positive regard, guidance, and helpful tools to help pull you out of your rough patches in life. I like sharing my tools and techniques that I’ve learned through years of training and experience to help others. I like that I can offer a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on, should someone need one. If I can make someone feel even just a little bit better about themselves or their circumstances, then that is my reward for helping.
2. I love to learn.
I admit it, I love learning new things. I’m fascinated with all there is to learn out there. I suppose it’s a good thing, then, that counselors are required to continue their education though hours of training even after they graduate. Yes, I’m that person who actually enjoys going to trainings. There are so many amazing things to learn: new techniques and interventions, new theories, what works and what doesn’t, etc. Besides formal trainings, though, being a therapist often means that one has to do their own research to continue learning about various mental disorders and treatments. Even those who aren’t born researchers sometimes have to rely on educating themselves in order to be able to best serve their clients. What am I currently researching? Asperger’s Syndrome and the best evidence-based treatments.
3. I learn so many new things from my clients.
Regardless of who I’m currently working with, whether it’s a hyperactive child, a defiant teen, or an anxious adult, each and every client teaches me something, and I think that’s awesome. There are no two clients alike; everyone is so uniquely different. Each client teaches me just how extraordinary we, as humans, really are: we each find a way to cope with whatever life throws at us. All in all, we’re all really just doing the best we can.
4. Therapy can be fun!
There’s a time for seriousness, and there’s a time for fun. Even with my adult clients, I often get the opportunity to employ some different creative techniques in our sessions. My office is stocked with games, crafts, and other art materials, as I believe that creative expression can help alleviate so many symptoms that clients present with. I also use humor in therapy, with kids and adults. I think it’s important for us all to sometimes take a step back from where we are in life and just laugh at something.
5. I get to witness hope and inner strength.
We all need hope, something that makes everything we’re going through somehow worth it in the end. When a client sees me and describes feelings of hopelessness, one of the first things I try to do is instill a sense of hope. In this job, I get the opportunity to witness the human condition every single day, and with that, I get a firsthand glimpse into each client’s hope that everything will somehow be okay. I’ve seen clients who have endured horrific trauma and those who have lived through so much pain and hurt that are so incredibly strong, and I admire that inner strength. Despite the stigma that is often attached with seeing a therapist or doing therapy, it actually takes an amazingly courageous person to seek out and undergo counseling. Therapy requires one to search within himself and expose all his vulnerabilities to a virtual stranger. That’s bravery. That’s strength. And I get the privilege of being a part of that, and I am truly humbled.
Most, if not all, children and adolescents, whether struggling with a mental health issue or not, sometimes have difficulty self-regulating, or utilizing healthy coping skills. Kids who have difficulty identifying their feelings can especially find it hard to calm down and self-regulate when they experience strong emotions such as anger, anxiety, depression, and grief. Below is a simple list of healthy coping skills for kids: from A to Z. Be forewarned that not all strategies will work for your child. Often you will find that what may work for one child won’t seem to help another. It’s best to let your child choose a few strategies to try, one at a time, to see what works best for her. If you have a preschooler, you may have to help them pick out a few techniques. Just be patient. There are many, many coping skills out there; your child will eventually find one or more that helps best.
Coping Skills for Kids: From A to Z
A – Get ARTSY! Draw, color, and/or paint!
B – BLOW BUBBLES!
C – COUNT backwards from 100 (or a lower number, if you have a younger child).
D – Practice DEEP breathing.
E – EXERCISE!
F – Smell some FLOWERS.
G – GO somewhere, like to the movies.
H – HUM a tune.
I – INVITE a friend over.
J – JUMP rope or JUMP up and down.
K – KEEP it simple.
L – LISTEN to music.
M – MEDITATE or practice MINDFULNESS.
N – Write in a NOTEBOOK or journal.
O – Go OUTSIDE!
P – PET your pet!
Q – Learn to QUILT or sew.
R – READ a book or the comics in the newspaper, or ask someone to READ to you.
S – SING!
T – TREAT yourself to something yummy or do something fun to TREAT yourself.
U – UNDERSTAND that all feelings are okay.
V – VISUALIZE – Close your eyes and imagine yourself in a safe place.
W – Create WORRY stones.
X – ‘X-hale!
Y – Practice YOGA.
Z – ZZZZZ… Sleep.