Counseling is an INCREDIBLE career. Every day, you get to help people lead happier, more fulfilling lives—and you get paid to do it! That’s an incredible privilege. In a lot of ways, counselors are truly lucky people to do what they do. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some really, really weird things about counseling. Especially when you meet people, and they learn you’re a therapist—they can act strange.
Here are a few of the odder things that happen to counselors—some that we’ve experienced, and some we’ve heard about from other therapists. Hope you enjoy! And, if you’re a counselor, and you’d like to add to our list—please add a comment and let us know! We’d love to hear from you! The Following Things Don’t Happen to Accountants When You Meet People for the First Time, and People Tell You Waaaaaaaay More Than You Need to Know It happens like this: you’re at a party, and a friend introduces you to someone they know from college. You get to chatting, and s/he asks, «So what do you do for a living?» You say, «I’m a therapist.» Some people may say, «Oh, that’s interesting,» or «My friend Nancy is a counselor.» You know, normal responses. But about 20% of people are going to nod quietly… and then look off into the distance… and say something like, «My mom drinks too much over the holidays… do you think we could talk?» Wait! Hold on! We’re at a party. I’m all dressed up. I have a martini!
Why are you…? Stop!
Happens all the time. And, of course, you want to help, and you’re sad to hear that they’ve had a rough time. But some people think that if you’re a therapist, you’re just walking around talking to people, waiting for them to get serious. Not the case. People Assume You’re a Saint Situation #2 is related to Situation #1. People hear you’re a therapist, and then they’ll say, «Oh, you must be such a good person!» It sounds a little illogical, but people assume that because you’re in a «helping» profession, you must have a heart of gold. Erika, a counselor from Philadelphia, PA, says this: «This first time someone said that to me, I though they were joking. I laughed out loud! But this woman was just staring at me. And I said ‘No, that’s not the case, ’ …and I continued to laugh.»
Dawnette, also from Philadelphia, PA, says this: «People say tell me I must be so great because I help people, and then I start to say weird stuff. I’ll be like, ‘No! I’m terrible! One time I told my grandmother I hated her dress and she started to cry! This other time I pushed another girl off a balance beam and she fell over and everyone laughed…! ’» If you decide to become a counselor, be ready for it: people will assume you are awesome. Not always a bad thing, really, but not always accurate, either. People Assume You Have Crazy Mental Powers It’s not clear what people assume counselors learn in their graduate programs, but many seem to think that you become clairvoyant. Sounds strange, but it’s true. Here’s how it happens: You’re at another party. Two people across the room are having a heated discussion, but you can’t hear what they’re saying. Your friends leans into you and asks, «What are they talking about?» or «What are they thinking right now?» Robert, a counselor from Newark, NJ, says, «That happens to me a lot.
When someone asks me what a person is thinking, I rub my temples as if I’m peering into their mind. And then I’ll say, ‘They’re thinking about… lunch. Or maybe getting a snack.» It’s strange, but it kind of makes sense. After you, counselors spend years studying human motivation, the dynamics that exist between people, and things related to personal interaction, but… still. That’s ridiculous. People Think Your Job is Way Cooler Than It Is Don’t get us wrong—being a counselor IS an amazing job. But sometimes people have strange ideas about what you do. Here are some questions that counselors have heard: Have you ever negotiated with bank robbers for hostages? (No, those are hostage negotiators). Have you ever counseled a mass murderer? (No, mass murderers are over-represented in movies, and they are really, really rare). Do you get to control people’s behavior? (No, that would be wildly unethical). Sometimes it’s fun to roll with it. «Hostage negotiation? Absolutely. Sometimes I even arrest the perps.
The cops call my «Psyche. ’» People Start to Watch What They Say Around You Counseling is a very unique profession. They aren’t too many jobs out there where you learn all of a person’s hopes, fears, and dreams… but it can freak some people out, knowing that you are walking around with everyone’s secrets. People feel discomfort because they may think that you’re judging them, or because they imagine that you have finely honed powers of observation, and can intuit all of their problems. The reality is, though, that when counselors aren’t in a session, they are not thinking about counseling.
And besides, most counselors know the truth: everybody is a little crazy. People Will Ask You to Solve Their Problems Again, you’re at a party, because you’re a very likeable person and you have an awesome social life. The person you’re chatting with learns you’re a counselor, and says, «You wouldn’t believe how mean my aunt is being to my uncle. Can you talk to her? She would listen to you!» Wait, what? You see that they’re reaching for their phone, and auto-dialing Mom, and… wait! Stop! People Will Say, «I’ve Heard that Most Therapists Are a Little Crazy Themselves» Ok, this one is kind of true.
There are a lot of nutty therapists out there. It’s Still Worth It Despite some of the wacky things that people say to you, most people will say, «Oh, you’re a therapist? Cool,» and then talk about their next vacation or the pair of shoes they’re thinking about buying. The truth is that counseling is an amazing career, and a couple of weird comments from people only makes it more interesting. Having the opportunity to help someone improve their lives, and to be an agent of change–that’s a pretty amazing opportunity!