Will A Counseling Degree Prepare Me To Fix People’s Problems?

"I want to major in counseling because I like to help people solve their problems. I’m hoping a degree in counseling will teach me how to better help people with their problems. Can I expect to be fully prepared to fix people’s problems when I graduate?"

asked by Josh from Georgetown, PA

Someone who is a problem solver and who likes to help people may be an ideal candidate for the counseling field. However, those are not the only necessary traits. It is also important that you possess the following characteristics: patience, compassion, empathy, discreteness, self-awareness, and authenticity.

A degree in counseling will most certainly prepare you for the occupation, but the preparation is in a general form. Your college courses pertaining to counseling will focus mainly on theory, technique, process, and assessment. You will learn the theoretical framework behind different counseling methods and have the opportunity to form your own combination of theories from which to work.

You will learn the traits of an effective counselor and how to apply certain techniques. In addition, you will learn how to approach people of different cultures than your own and how to interpret research reports in order to apply them to people’s problems. You’ll become well versed in different assessment instruments. In general you will learn many valuable things that will help you focus your efforts.

Although you will work with case studies and have an opportunity to gain real life experience through your practicum and internship, you will not be prepared to deal with every specific problem a client brings to the table. In your first few years as a counselor, you may encounter a hundred different presenting problems from depression to anxiety to marital discord to schizophrenia.

A few years of college is not enough time to teach a student how to solve every single problem. Not every single problem has a specific solution. There are many different theories on the correct solution to each problem. You will need to read a lot of books and current research articles as well as consult with your supervising counselor in order to become better equipped to handle each problem a client presents.

A good counselor will have a love for learning as well as a love for people. It’s important to have a certain level of competency for the problem being presented. You may need to refer clients that are outside of your competency area when you first begin to counsel. This is done in order to protect your client and yourself. Many times clients are fragile and you do not want a client to commit suicide as a result of your incompetency. Your supervising counselor can help you determine what is best for both you and the client.

As you begin to pursue your degree, I highly recommend that you focus on forming your personal theory of counseling and begin to think about the areas you would like to specialize in. Then, passionately immerse yourself in learning as much as you can about how to help people from that theoretical framework in the area of your interest.

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