Counseling is a heavy gig.
Most of the people in my graduating class got into counseling as a second career because they identified as easy to talk to. We all know there are many who wind up in the field to “me-search.” The study of counseling can serve as a kind of self-therapy that can be a very healing process all the way through your career. It also comes with it’s major challenges; and that small detail of seeing very complex clients for up to six hours a day. It is one thing to be in your own “stuff,” it is quite another to navigate someone else’s.
You are a therapist for a reason.
No one sits at their desk during grade school Junior Achievement and proclaims they want to be a therapist. This line of work is a calling, a passion, even a drive. You have your reasons WHY you are in this line of work. They may not be identical to the next person reading this, but they are your driving force. Your WHY has propelled you through grad school and this far into your career. Have you put thought into what your WHY is and how it has morphed over the years?
So Quitting Has Crossed Your Mind?
Being a therapist is seen a certain way. You know what way I am talking about, so admitting you’d like to throw in the towel, and not because you are retiring, feels a little icky to say the least. Don’t worry, you are quite normal. You are not a bad person. Maybe, before you make your decision consider a few things first.
Re-examine Your Why
One way to identify a good therapist is by the growth they make personally and professionally over time. If you are growing at a steady rate throughout your career your WHY is certainly going to change with you. Just like it is important to be intentional in relationships with others, it is equally important to be intentional about your relationship with yourself to your work. Re-examine why you are a counselor and see what comes up. Maybe the WHY you have grown in to is in conflict with the things you do that still align with your old WHY. This can be a cause of a feeling of wanting to throw in the towel.
Helpers are notorious for not helping themselves in the smallest of ways. Entrepreneurs as well. Check in with yourself by taking a honest look at the past month. Have you been taking care of your body? Is your schedule aligned with your WHY? How are your client hours stacked? All of these variables can have a HUGE impact on feeling balanced in your practice. Maybe scheduling a week off every few months is what the doctor ordered…
Do you remember being a kid and getting rewards for good behavior? It felt good right? Seriously, think back on some silly little thing that you received in school or at home that reinforced your good behavior. Go on, I’ll wait…………
Okay, now no one is going to create that feeling for you as an adult except for you! Especially if you are running your own business. I suggest setting up goals and expectations for yourself with corresponding rewards. Try this out for three months and evaluate how you feel. Track your behaviors and rewards as well. Nothing is as honest as hard data.
Sometimes clinicians just get bored. Continuing education is required these days, but are you just checking the box or are you genuinely interested in your continuing education? I once ran into a therapist that prevented burn out by having different focuses for chunks of time. She would focus intensely on one specialty and then rotate that out for another after a while. This is one tactic that may help spice things up, or just find a continuing ed course that lights your fire again.
When is it Time to Quit?
One would think it is counter-intuitive that Therapy Practice University would even bring up actually quitting being a counselor, but we like to be real here. Sometimes when that feeling comes you need to listen. Definitely go talk to an experienced therapist and see what feelings underlie this urge to purge. As you know, it may not be what it seems. If your client care is lagging and your mental health is being sacrificed it’s time to get serious about your future. Just because you have a degree in mental health does not mean you HAVE to be a therapist. Therapists come in all different flavors because of our vast backgrounds and interests. Your degree comes in handy in many fields if you choose to leave.