If you’re considering a career as a counsellor there are four questions you should consider before you enrol in a training course, according to Dan Auerbach, Sydney-based psychotherapist with Associated Counsellors & Psychologists Sydney.
A good counsellor requires a specific mix of skills and personality traits, says Auerbach. “First, it helps to be genuinely interested in how people work and how relationships work. This includes being thoughtful about your own inner world and your relationships.”
- Are you curious about people?
- Do friends or family come to you for advice or to share what’s going on?
- Do you feel deeply for the people around you?
- Do you enjoy talking to friends about their emotional life and their relationships?
If your answer was yes to all four questions it’s likely you possess skills that provide a good base for a career as a counsellor, says Auerbach.
It’s this empathetic and caring nature that matters, advises Auerbach, as good counsellors genuinely like their clients and are warm ‘people-people.’ “It’s important that overall you see the best in people and have some ability to relate to a broad range of people and experiences.”
Successful counsellors are also comfortable with a range of emotions, including their own and those of others. “This helps them to stay with clients while they work through or learn to engage with their own emotional life,” he says.
“If you feel you have a mix of curiosity and warmth and can be present with emotion, counselling could be a great fit,” says Auerbach.
A Career as a Counsellor. What’s the Reality?
As a counsellor, a typical day involves seeing six clients for sessions of around 50 to 55 minutes, says Auerbach, with couple counselling sessions extending to an hour and a half or even two hours.
“I see couples as well as individuals and this means a lot of variety in the sorts of presentations I see as well as in the way I work.”
Auerbach says individual work can be a lot more reflective and conversational with a slower pace, but often adds an emotional depth to the counselling work. “It’s very intimate in that I form a very close working relationship with my clients,” he says.
The nature of the work changes in couples counselling, says Auerbach. “You’re constantly watching the dynamic between the couple and are always on the ready to intervene. It’s a much more active style of work. That variety keeps things fresh.”
A Rewarding and Interesting Career.
A career as a counsellor is hugely rewarding, says Auerbach. “It’s an enormous privilege to share people’s deepest struggles, their innermost thoughts and their victories.”
It’s also an incredibly interesting job, he says. “Together with our clients, we get to work out what drives them, what gets in their way and how to make it safe for them to make a change in their lives.”
Being a counsellor is an intellectual exercise as well as a deeply emotionally-engaging one, adds Auerbach. “We form a truly remarkable relationship with our clients which can be moving, rewarding and at times challenging,” he says.
So, What’s the Downside?
The absence of team work and working alone is the biggest drawback to being a counsellor, according to Auerbach. “Staying connected with like-minded peers, doing lots of training and joining social groups in other workplaces are good ways overcome this relative isolation,” he says.
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