Sunday, January 14, 2007

Do you ever really know what you want to do in life?

I guess today is a day of titling blogs with questions.

This question was brought on to me by A&E's Intervention, which is a wonderful and highly recommended show. So here's the deal, I know I want to be a counselor. That is set in stone for me. I just don't know about which population I want to work with. I guess that's the beauty of counseling is that I can work with any population. But I'd like to have a specialty, or better yet a specialty licensure. Right now I want to work with adolescents and children. But I've also recently discovered that I'm very interested in working with people with substance abuse issues. I read an excellent book awhile ago called Hooked, written by Lonny Shavelson. It's the story of 5 addicts and their journey towards sobriety. Excellent book.

I always find myself to have a huge amount of empathy for people with substance abuse issues. The problem is, it's a very frustrating job. As a substance abuse counselor, you see the same clients coming back again and again. Drugs are a really hard habit to kick. And it's not just the chemical addiction, it's also a lifestyle change. Most people with serious addictions have something underneath it all that keeps them going back to the drugs. And if that one thing triggers, it doesn't matter how much therapy and detox they've been through- 99 out of 100 times, when the trauma kicks in, they go back to the drugs. I would love to be that really great therapist that helps a person learn to deal with the issues that keep them going back. That's the problem with alot of institutions...they treat the chemical addiction, but they don't offer any individual counseling to talk about underlying causes of addiction. It's only group counseling, which has it's benefits, but I think there needs to be individual work done too.

This was also brought on at the hospital the other day. I was on the dual diagnosis (substance abuse and a mental illness) unit and I just thought it was such a great atmosphere. It was very laid back. There were lots of smiles on the patients faces, and people were talking to one another. On the adolescent unit, so many of these kids are just angry. Most of those kids aren't there by choice, whereas the adult units are almost all by choice since it's a private hospital that's very costly. I do love working with the kids though. Like I said in a previous blog, I feel like I have alot to offer children and adolescents, and I just hope to God that I can be a good counselor for them. Even if I can make a difference for 1 child out of 30, that's reward enough for me.

Oh well, I'm sure that all of this will resolve itself as I progress in my career. Who knows, I may not even be in this state anymore when I graduate. Thanks for listening ;)


Carl V. said...

As a person who has worked in the mental health field since 1991 the answer is, 'no', you never really know. I graduated with a BSW and along the way I said any number of times, "I don't think I'd ever want to do _____". I have found that each time I have taken on a new challenge I have enjoyed it. I have worked with adolescents in an inpatient and outpatient setting, with adults in outpatient, in a crisis unit in a hospital doing intakes, as a case worker, and for the last 5 years I have been in various levels of administration. Today I was interviewing people to take my job so that I can assume a director role in my agency. None of it has been expected and I have enjoyed various aspects of each part of it along the way. And still I'm convinced that, in addition to these things, there are other things I want to do with my life when I 'grow up'. Just do your best where you are at, be open to new opportunities, and figure out early that very little of the book knowledge you get in college prepares you for working with people. Common sense, good listening skills, and creativity go a long way towards being a good help for others.

Chris said...

Thanks for the advice from an experienced pro :) I'm learning this very quickly. This is my second internship. The unit i'm on now is an inpatient unit for children and adolescents aged 4-17 and I love it so far. I think that as long as I'm in this field I'll be happy. I'd like to get to experience a little of everything, but we'll see what the future holds.