5 Tips for the Counselor-to-Be

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counseling-sessionAs you near the end of your counseling program, you may be nervous about actually stepping into the field. As with any profession, beginners may initially struggle to find their footing. It takes time, patience, and dedication to settle into any career, and you’ll need all the help you can get along the way. To get started, here are five tips that will make transitioning from school to the workforce a little less daunting.

1. Connect With Other Newcomers

Make an effort to connect with other new counselors. You’ll quickly see that you aren’t alone in this adjustment period, and it will be cathartic to share your experiences and worries with people who are likely feeling the same things. Join a social network of young counseling professionals if the anonymity puts your mind at ease, or seek out a community in your area. Whichever route you choose, don’t be afraid to lean on your new community for support, and be courteous enough to lend an ear in return.

2. Let Clients Know They are Important to You

Part of forming a strong relationship with your clients involves letting them know you see them as people, not just as patients. It’s okay to care about them. In fact, it’s necessary. They’re depending on you to understand them so they can understand themselves and begin healing, so it’s imperative that you treat them genuinely and with care.

3. Develop a Relationship With Support Staff

If you’re going to work as a school counselor, make it a point to connect with your support staff. School psychologists, nurses, social workers, and even teachers will all be able to guide you through your adjustment period by giving you insight into individual students’ personalities and behavior. Collaborate with them to develop and execute valuable programs and intervention plans for students.

4. Keep Learning

If you ever think you have all the answers, that’s when you should start to get worried. Strive to be better no matter how successful you are. Keep a tall stack of journal articles, books, and magazines relating to the field to keep abreast of the latest conversations and theories, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Even the most successful counselors consult with their peers.

5. Take Care of Yourself

Finally, take care of yourself. Your practice can only be as healthy as you are. Your new profession connects you with many troubled people, some of whom have horrific stories to tell. It’s easy to let that darkness creep into your own life and intensify your personal problems, but it’s important not to let that happen. Strive to live a healthy, nourished life so you can give your professional self fully to your clients.

Follow this advice, but listen to your mentors as well. Just as each of your clients will have different needs, each new counselor will have a different learning curve as they settle into their profession. One day, you will wake up and realize you can rightfully navigate your career with confidence and begin sharing your experiences with new counselors who come after you.