¶ … counseling degree.
My reasons for seeking a counseling degree are that I grew up with a desire to help others. I have myself been counseled, as a child, by therapists whom, I noted, attempted to streamline me according to particularistic beliefs. Wondering whether it were possible for psychotherapy to be objective, I read a lot on the subject and observed people who were therapists. At the time I naively thought counselors to be wonderful, and considered them almost as though they were God's second-in-command. I was later to read that psychotherapists do project that image, which is partially what renders the profession of psychotherapy to be somewhat controversial (e.g., Dawes,1994).
Gradually it dawned on me that these people were playing with people's lives: That I and presumably many other individuals are either compelled to 'visit' these deities of fate, or they 'visit' them out of their own volition. It was thought that these people -- 'wise in the ways of the world and in mumbo-jumbo' held the key to human's fortune and well-being, but it seemed to me that the advice I was given simply resonated with their personality. I began to wonder how I, for myself, not directed by another could come to my own solutions. I realized that counselors were influencing others to think as they thought. I wondered whether I, trained as counselor, could help others find themselves from within themselves. Many may argue that Roger's non-conditional model does just that. I do not think so.
At the same time, I am also interested in philosophy and logic (a subject which, I hoped, would objectify the human psychological condition) and resolve my philosophical questions of 'normality' and 'abnormality'. It seems to me that these constructs are defined by the social tendency and perspective of the time. This is where counselor's, too, play a large role in disseminating social meaning and narrative.
Most counseling modalities fall somewhere between directive and non-directive extremes. Directive therapy, such as psychoanalysis, guides a client, premising that the client needs help. The therapist can be professionally trained in his modality, empathic, even helpful -- yet disabled from entering the client's reality. 'Our situation is by necessity (and definition) ontological' (Gadamer, 2005).
Indeed, cognitive psychology's discovery that our reasoning skills are intertwined with an emotionally-saturated memory (see for instance, Leighton & Sternberg, 2004), augments my argument, particularly since each of us possess different core structures of conditioning. Hence, 'the knower's own situation is already constitutionally involved in any process of understanding.' (Gadamer, 2005).
On the other hand, non-directive modality such as Rogerian therapy, basing itself on empathy, affirms that none can direct another (Rogers, 1951). Is empathy genuinely possible? Isn't it rather a cognitive reconstruction of the client's situation based on the therapist's own situation? Aren't we as metaphysically isolated as Leibniz's monads, hence disabled from knowing the other as he is. And, if so, shouldn't the client access his own mind for the solution? But how can he if the stressed mind is physiologically delimited from thinking rationally (Masters, 2004)? These were some of the questions that I had.
My coming to counseling, therefore, was more out of an interrogative for research than out of a need to help another individual, per se. Yes, I desired to help others. Yes, I thought -- and do think -- that counseling is a wondrous and wonderful profession, influential, powerful, and magnanimous. One is almost literally - if not literally changing a world through one's practice. But I also wondered: is the counselor helping the individual make more of himself, or is the counselor changing the individual to reflect the counselor's own image. And then the term 'changing" -- why is there something wrong with the client to begin with? Might there not be something 'wrong' with the image that the counselor wishes to modify him into? Might there not be something wrong with the 'normal' world in which the counselor seeks to reconstruct client? In other words, who sets the standards for 'right' and 'wrong' particularly when standards and mores change from country to age so dramatically and rapidly?
I often think that my framework will be a holistic lifework system where I will encourage clients to articulate their goals in each of the spheres of their life. I will stress the ethical concern: How I can help the other as though I were a part of her; a part of her existence; a part of her life experiences; a part of her socialization -- so that I could address her problems precisely from her own perceptive rather than from mine. My endeavor was and is the objective that rather than I change client, client change herself.
My thesis seems to measure up to counseling effective research, which demonstrates (as relevant to this essay), that empowerment of the client in the therapeutic process is a powerful change agent, and that therapeutic change depends on the counselor exploring options with the client, rather than imposing on the client any particular view of the correct way to address problems (Duncan & Miller, 2000).
Compare and contrast your own personality characteristics with commonly accepted counselor characteristics or "ideal" counselor characteristics.
Counselors have to be in constant pursuit of self-improvement. I have a persistent desire to improve myself. To that end, I posses expert self-knowledge of my behavior and my thoughts. Other counseling requirements, however, include active listening and complete attention to the client. Admittedly, I have more of a challenge in these regards since my mind is often racing and I am apt to interrupt. As Freud put it in a different context, psychotherapy is like a passenger on a train with the train racing past station after station and traveling through a myriad of different scenes. My mind feels like that: traveling through a myriad of different scenes and having difficult to stay fixated with and one the client. The few times that I have practiced active listing I have found tremendous and energizing giving a great amount both to the client and to myself. I also find empathy a challenge having philosophical questions with the concept.
To greater benefit to myself, however, I am by nature non-judgmental and this is a huge thing in counseling. Although I believe that we are unable to be totally objective in the phenomenological sense of the word, since we are unalterably part of our situation and have been acculturated and socialized in certain parts of thinking, yet, I think Hide (1994) may be correct in that to a certain extent we can detach ourselves from our schemas and achieve some sort of detached thinking. I think I have that within my capacity.
I think it is a privilege to be a counselor. I see this as imitating God on a minor scale: just as God comforts humans in His metaphysical manner, so do I on a more practical level. Yet, in order to be the most efficacious counselor that I can and in order to construct lives rather than to destruct them I would be well-advised to structure my services along the American Psychological Association's (APA) Ethical code (and/or the ethical code of my local counseling institution), as well as constantly attempting to be non-arrogant and gentle.
There are many people out there who need counseling -- the need is greater and more diverse than I realized - and there are countless issues to be aware of. The research that I was involved with in this essay merely uncovered a few themes. It strikes me that to be as successful as I possibly can - and that for the good of others not for my monetary or status development -- it will be contingent on me to engage in ongoing research about counseling-related themes. One counselor cannot dealt with everything -- the spectrum is vast ranging from substance abuse, to school, to marriage, to adolescents, to foster-children (these are just several topics contained in this essay) and to everything in between). To be effective, therefore, I would have to carefully and thoroughly select my population, be aware of cultural issues that may necessarily be involved in this selected population, be open and flexible to change, and maintain a continuous learning curve with the intent of progressively developing my skills.
Use information you gained from taking the EPI to assist you in comparing and contrasting your "real" self with your "ideal" self.
One of the most productive and intriguing theories that I ever came across, seemingly psychoanalytic in origin, is cognitive existential self theory (CEST) which proposes that individuals have a gap between their 'ideal' and 'real' self. Self-deception certainly makes this phenomena exist where we may operate within a realm of goals and dreams that we wish to achieve and yet when being brusquely honest and assessing ourselves, we find that we often do not…
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