While there may be an abundance of licensed mental health therapists in the United States, only a fraction of adults seek treatment for mental illness. To put that into perspective, mental illness can affect 1 in 5 U.S. adults each year. There is always room for more therapists, and becoming a counselor could be the perfect career path for you if you’re an open, understanding, and compassionate person. Being a therapist isn’t for everyone, however.
You need more than just a love of psychology to thrive in this line of work. More than anything, you need patience and an open mind to help your clients confront the struggles they’re facing in the most empathetic, empowering way. This can mean anything from helping people deal with financial stress to helping foster relationships between estranged family members. If you’re wondering whether counseling is your calling, here are five signs that you should become a therapist.
You Are a People Person
You don’t have to be a major extrovert to be a good therapist. In fact, introverts’ neutral observation skills can make them excellent counselors. It’s not uncommon to meet clients with a lot of resistance to therapy, either purposefully or subconsciously. You’ll need to be willing to work with clients where they’re at, an adage that reflects the therapist’s need to be fully present and encourage their clients to do the same.
You Value Progress Over Perfection
A large misconception many have about therapy is that it “fixes” people. In reality, many people who struggle with mental health problems will face them in some degree or another throughout their lives. Rather than hold clients up to impossible standards, being a therapist is all about embracing the humanness in all of us. We make mistakes, we struggle, but we also hope, heal, and grow.
You Enjoy School
Being a therapist takes a lot of work. You need an undergraduate degree, master’s degree in mental health counseling, and continuing education to maintain your license in most states. The cost of becoming a therapist is easily over $50,000, so you’ll have to be comfortable with debt for a while, too. We suggest exploring school loans early to see your options, as well as applying for scholarships to lower your debt burden. On top of the cost, you’ll need to be someone who loves studying, learning, and, most importantly, research. Trust us on that last one.
You Handle Differences Well
Some people are not extremely tolerant of others’ differing opinions. It’s natural, to a degree. No one wants to surround themselves with people who hold contrary values at all times. However, therapists are not there to judge their clients. They are there to respect them for who they are, and help them make decisions that guide them to a happier, better place in life. You’ll need to be open-minded and comfortable working with people whose beliefs, morals, and lifestyles may differ from (and even directly oppose) your own.
You See the Good in Just About Everyone
Therapists don’t lie to their clients. When they tell them that they believe they can change, they mean it. Growth is often painful, messy, and, at times, inconsistent. In order to practice as a counselor, you’ll have to be willing to look past your clients’ setbacks and always embrace their potential.