Your Career in Counseling

The ins and outs of the counseling profession.

What Does It Take?

How to become successful in the field of psychotherapy.

In school, we read the works and biographies of different authors, like Ellis, Yalom, Gottman, and Kaplan. Their professional careers are fascinating; their work inspires us to think about, discuss, and apply different ideas in the therapy session. There seems to be something extraordinary, even magical about these people: they are made differently, they even have extraordinary talents and abilities, and they think and perform on a different level than the rest of us.

 

Eventually I started to attend different professional conferences. I saw Schnarch, Klein, Krueger, Johnson and others on stage. In person, they were even more impressive than on paper. Even though I was closer to them physically, professionally I felt even more distant. I perceived those famous practitioners as aliens from another world.

Some time afterwards, as I was preparing to attend and present at one of those very conferences, I received a letter from a keynote speaker (!) inviting me to join him and other participants at networking dinner. Thrilled, I gladly accepted the invitation.

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Participants at this dinner included authors of many books, international lecturers, seasoned therapists, and some students for whom it was their first conference. Sitting at the table and enjoying the conversation, my idea that these well-known professionals are from another planet slowly melted away.

So if those successful people are not from another world, what is the difference between them and us? We, who look up to them, dreaming of similar success.

First, successful practitioners have passion. They have passion for their work, and for making a contribution with their work. They do it not because they have to, but because they want to. They believe that their work will make a difference in people's lives. Some of them work on a macro level - they write books, speak on TV, travel the world. Others work on a micro level - they teach classes, work with individual clients, supervise new practitioners. It does not matter which way they work - they are passionate about it.

Another aspect is hard work. To write a book, you have to sit and sit and sit. Remember, whining about writing a four to six page paper? A book is two or three hundred pages. All successful people with whom I've spoken are open about their long work hours, work ethic, and discipline. Remember, they do not have deadlines set by professors. So here it is: If you do not have passion for your work and do not believe it will make a difference, motivation can be as difficult to maintain as snow in the Texas sun.

Another aspect of success is networking. People will not start spontaneously calling you to be part of their world. You have to work hard and produce, and then you have to reach out. Reaching out can be as simple as writing an e-mail to a person whose book you just read, or someone whose career you have been following from the beginning of your journey in this field.

There are a lot of other aspects that bring recognition to people. They include appreciation of others, theoretical and practical knowledge of the subject, willingness to continue to learn, ability to take risks, and ability to handle and take advantage of criticism.

Success is possible, but it does not come easily, even for the gifted. Because most people do not succeed at their first attempt, dealing successfully with failure and frustration is a key component of success.

If you're passionate about this field, and believe you are talented, and are willing to work hard, you just may succeed. So keep nourishing your passion.

 

Edita Ruzgyte, Ph.D. is an assistant professor of graduate counseling at Texas Wesleyan University.

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