I’ve always enjoyed intimate, one-on-one conversations rather than “small talk” in a large group. I used to think it was because I was shy, but now I realize that’s just how I’m wired. I find large group discussions to be mostly superficial and meaningless. I’d much rather spend focused individual time with someone. That’s where true connections happen.
I’ve always been “that friend.” You know, the one you go to with all of your problems. Everyone trusted me because I was like a vault. No matter what you told me, it never went any further. I was also a very empathetic and understanding listener. I actually ENJOYED hearing other’s problems, not because I wanted to see them in pain, but because I knew that was their way of connecting with me.
So I decided to go into Computer Science…oops! Obviously this was a mistake. Only at the time, I thought it was brilliant. My immature twenty-year-old mind only thought of money, job security, and finding a husband, sort of in that order. So it was the perfect choice on all three accounts. Plus my Dad wanted me to go into that field. I thought it was a great way to finally earn his approval. What was it in hindsight? A recipe for disaster.
The damage didn’t really appear for about ten years. When it came, it felt like boredom and dissatisfaction. So I started buying stuff. I developed hobbies. Lots of them. I became a Martha Stewart mini-me. Still nothing.
Finally, after almost twenty years, I decided if I didn’t do something now, I never would. And what would be my legacy? Barbara LoFrisco sat in a cubicle from 8 to 5 with hands on keyboard but mind elsewhere? The thought was just too depressing. There weren’t enough new shoes to make that feel OK.
So I decided to follow my passion-helping people. Fast-forward eight years, and here I am today. My job isn’t always easy, but it’s always interesting. I never wake up in the morning and dread going in. I love the fact that I never really know on any given day what will happen. So far, no matter how much experience I gain, there is always a new skill to learn, a new way to grow, or a new problem to tackle. Each day, my clients surprise, and therefore challenge, me all of the time.
The work is also extremely rewarding. My clients let me into the most secret, painful parts of their lives. Often, I am the only one that knows these parts. The trust that my clients place in me amazes me. Often, they feel relieved just to have “gotten something off my chest” with an objective person listening in a non-judgmental manner. Sometimes clients feel so good after the first session, they don’t come back. Although this could be considered complimentary to me, it is actually detrimental to them, as we may not have addressed the root cause. More on that in a later post.
Anyway, back to the rewards. Sometimes, clients come in with abuse stories so awful I have a hard time believing it actually happened. I mean, here they are sitting in front of me and acting “normal.” The resilience of people is quite inspirational. When I am able to help them live even healthier lives I feel blessed.
The best feeling, however, comes when a client returns and tells me specifically how my intervention was helpful. I have had clients tell me they can hear my voice when they feel anxious or upset. They can hear me tell them what to do, and they do it, and it works. I have just improved someone’s life. There is no better feeling than that.
So, if you were considering a career in counseling I would ask you to get ready for some intense, emotional conversations with complete strangers. You will form the most intimate bonds with people you may never see again. You will hold the hands of the emotionally troubled without touching them. You have to be OK with that. Sometimes you don’t know what became of the client. You have to be OK with that, too.
Your life will change, and you have to be ready. This includes being able to set appropriate boundaries and prevent burnout, which I will address in subsequent posts.
Yours in the Joy of Knowledge,