Over the past 13 years I have encountered some interesting myths about counselors. When I meet people in a social setting I am often reluctant to tell them what I do for a living. Of course just like a medical doctor I get some strange questions from people I meet. In this blog I thought I’d clear up some common myths I have encountered about counselors. These are common myths I have heard and here’s my take on them.
- “Counselors know ‘mind tricks’ and they use them to help people.” We are trained professionals. We don’t “trick” people or read their minds. We do become very good at reading emotions and we understand human behavior. Our most valuable skill lies in our ability to connect with others on a deep level. On a level that is also safe so that the client feels safe enough to explore the really hard parts of themselves.
- “Counselors must be strange to actually enjoy listening to people’s pain all day long.” Well we are a different type of person. When people are hurting counselors don’t run away, we lean in. Not due to some sick fascination but because we know healing can take place when someone can walk through the painful places with you. Most of us are naturally curious about people and human nature which is helpful in this line of work.
- “Counselors make lots of money.” Let me tell you most therapists don’t start making a decent living until they are at this at least 5 years into the field and even then we don’t get paid near what our counterparts with similar level of education get paid. If we wanted to be well paid this is definitely not the field we would have chosen. Funny story: My husband and I were both in the Master’s of Counseling program together many years ago when my husband realized how little money therapists make. He essentially told me “Hey one of us needs to make real money if we’re going to have kids one day. So I’m going to change careers so we aren’t broke for the rest of our lives.”
- “You only care because I pay you.” No one can pay me to care! You can pay me to listen to you but not to care. If I didn’t genuinely care about helping others then why would I have chosen this as my career? Remember, it’s not for the money!
- “Counselors must get tired of listening to people’s problems.” Some counselors do get “burned out” but burnout usually occurs due to working too many hours, having too much paperwork (we generally hate paperwork) and not doing enough self-care. Most of us do not get tired of counseling others. The only time counseling is frustrating is when a client that is emotionally stuck and no matter what we say or do the client is not ready to do the work of counseling and they are miserable. That is a hard place for the client and therapist. It can be hard to witness and to stay present with that client but that’s our job. It can be trying phase in the counseling process but that phase doesn’t last forever. While we may have that one client that is “stuck,” in all likelihood most of our other clients are making great strides. I actually get energized from my work with others. Seeing a client grow and change emotionally and behaviorally is exhilarating! Being witness to someone overcoming hardships and pain is a huge privilege! Assisting a client to work through something so difficult, that for others may cause a total mental collapse, is awe-inspiring!
- “Counselors diagnose or analyze everyone they come into contact with.” I run into this one in social settings quite often. When I meet new people, I’m just like everyone else. If I’m not at work, I’m not working to analyze you! Frankly, I have better ways to spend my free time. Of course if you have a serious mental illness I’m going to pick up on that, but I’m not working to find it. If you have major issues that you aren’t working on, I will pick up on that too but once again I’m not trying to find them. If I meet people in a social setting, I’m just trying to be social and make friends like everyone else. I’ve actually encountered people that were scared to talk to me after I tell them what I do! As a result, I’ve been tempted to lie about my profession. Then, I decided if people are scared to talk to me after they learn what I do then I figure they got serious drama in their lives and I don’t need them in mine until they work on themselves. Besides, I am proud of my profession and wish more people were open to improving themselves via counseling.
If you have any questions about counselors that you’ve wondered about, feel free to comment below and I’d be happy to give you my thoughts!