Tuesday, September 1, 2009

"So what exactly do you DO?"

I get this question all the time concerning my profession. I also frequently get the question, "So, Becky, are you a teacher too?" when people find out what Mike does for a living. If I answer this question with, "I'm a counselor", the response is almost always, "Oh, like a school counselor?" I always feel like I give such vague answers concerning my profession which never really do it justice, so I thought I would explain what I do on a deeper level.

I have a B.A. in Psychology, and a Master's in Professional Counseling, and my official license states that I am an LPCi, or Licensed Professional Counselor-Intern. What this means is that I have completed my graduate coursework, I have satisfied a practicum (clinical) and have passed my licensing exam. I can practice as a counselor with LPCi status until I complete 3000 hours of counseling, at which time my license will be upgraded to LPC. Basically, this means I do the job of an LPC, but meet with a board-approved supervisor once a week for consultation until those 3000 hours are completed. That explains my license...

At my job, my title is a Child & Family Specialist. My job can best be described as a mix of Social Work and Counseling. Basically, I receive referrals from CPS, school districts, other social service agencies, or word of mouth, and I set up an assessment with a family. I meet with the family either in my office, in their home, their school, or any other community location to assess what their needs are and how I might be able to assist them. After spending some time talking with the family about their situation, I can usually get a good picture of the services the client is needing, and then go from there. Some of the services I can offer a family are individual, couples, or family therapy, intensive case management, Parenting classes, crisis intervention, budgeting, creating family routines/structure, financial assistance, coordinating with a child's school, connection with other resources (food stamps, Medicaid, etc.) and any other services that might be needed.

What I love about my job is that we offer a more holistic approach to working with a family than just therapy alone. While I love that aspect of my job and see the absolute need for it, I also recognize that a parent living in poverty is not going to want to resolve their own childhood issues in counseling when their very basic needs (food, shelter, clothing) are not being met. The same goes for the kids I work with...they have often been so neglected and traumatized in their daily life, and then are expected to go to school and be completely engrossed in a classroom lesson. We understand that when a child is secure in the fact that they will have electricity when they go home, they are much more able to pay attention to their teacher. When we take on a family, we walk alongside the parents and the children and (hopefully) help them learn how to make better decisions and plan for the future so that the cycle of dysfunction they live in will not be repeated. Most parents I work with state the same thing to me when we talk about their goals: "I just want my kids to have a better life than I did." So many parents want this, but were never taught how to get it, so we try to help them see new ways to do things, and to find the strength inside them that they never knew they had.

Many people think therapy is people coming to you, spilling out their problems to you, and then the therapist says, "Ok, here's what you need to do." Then the client does what the therapist says and all is well in the world. Hardly. A therapist's job is to help the client find the resources inside themselves to make their lives livable. This might mean letting a grieving person work through the anger without condemnation, letting a frustrated teen vent about their parents and the drama of being a teen, or helping a parent at their end of their rope who doesn't know how to do things differently. As a therapist, I don't offer MY solutions, but rather help the client discover what it is they really want, and what might be holding them back from getting it.

My job is interesting, exciting, challenging and extremely rewarding. It's so fulfilling to be able to help a family realize their potential and help them learn how to start to change the patterns in their lives. It's also heartbreaking sometimes to realize that people will never change until they are ready to work for that change, and to realize that there are limits to what I can do for a family. I feel so blessed that the Lord allows me to be involved in these families' lives, even just for a time, to inspire whatever change and hope I can. I know my job will NEVER be boring, and know without a doubt that I am doing what I was called to do. What more could I ask for, than to know I am using the talents the Lord has given me for His glory...and by doing that, I am also helping others realize their potential!

So that is a sense of what I do! I love my job and am so thankful I followed the Lord's leading into this amazing profession! See why I can't sum it up in a quick answer, or really even in this blog post! But hopefully, after reading this (if you're still reading this!) you will have a better idea of what I do on a daily basis. I'm so glad I can truly say that I LOVE what I do!


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