Thursday, April 7, 2011

Why I want to counsel....and why I think I need more training to do so

Isaac and I have been doing a lot of chatting about the where, what, why, and how of our plans for after he graduates in December. I'm having to rethink what I want to do, and I need to write it out because that's how I think best.

I am a counselor. I say "am" because I believe it's just a God-given personality thing that's already present in my life and has been since ... well.. middle school? I have no desire to have an office and a couch and have people sit on it and talk to me. However, I do believe that suffering and pain cloud the lives of all humans, and that I am able to listen and help people process. I believe that most healing and growth comes best through relationships and community, and so although my job is unrelated to counseling, that sort of relational healing is what I intentionally try to live out informally at all times (and really, to some respects everyone should be about the business of loving people and helping them grow and heal).

The question is, then, do I need further training to do what I already do? If I take this natural gift and passion with me around the world, am I already able to do what I want to do?

Here's the thing.

When I was in high school in a very small community overseas, I saw attempted suicide, severe depression that had to be medicated, marital trouble, eating disorders, sexual addiction, post-traumatic stress disorder, rape and teen pregnancy, and the list goes on. There were people around that provided that sort of informal relational counseling, but for major issues like the ones I just described, families generally had to return to their home countries since there was no specialized help where we were.

Now here I am in Dallas with a BA in pre-counseling and attempting to live out a life that lives out the counseling role that God has put in my life. I am able to intentionally mentor a group of high school girls and sometimes provide a little extra insight for friends, which is great. But.... without ever going out of my way, I've encountered severe marital struggles, eating disorders, severe depression that needs to be medicated, bipolar disorder, cutting, drug addiction, families in conflict or experiencing divorce, and sexual abuse.

I am able to love people. I'm able to listen, to help them process. That's where it ends, and generally that is not even close to enough. Since it seems like "unusually severe" struggles are actually inevitable and ever-present, I have GOT to be further trained to know how to deal with these situations, I feel like it's almost an obligation on my part. If I'm going to effectively care for souls, I need more training than I have.

The next question is, how do I get the training I need? I don't care about the licensing and accreditation provided by most counseling programs, because I don't need an office and I'll likely be overseas anyways. Do I go the route of reading, research, conferences, and on-the-job training? Right now I tend to think it would be impossible to gain that extra expertise that can be provided by professors in a good program if I just try to study up with no accountability. The thing is, the idea of potentially spending a year to two years MORE away from Judah in a grad program .... is so hard.

So I suppose my conclusions at the moment are that I need more training... but I'm really not sure the best way to go about that training.


Jaimie said...

Hard to be away from your kid, but he's at an age where he'll never know the difference? So the "hard" factor is mostly you giving up the pleasure of being around him. Just a thought.

I think this is so awesome. I love it when people know what they are good at and pursue it. There's something divine about it.

I'd say reading books would be great training right there, but if discipline is an issue, then yeah...

Rach said...

Kacie, what an awesome gift you have! I'm sure God will use you hugely no matter what form of study you pursue. But I understand where you're Jason and I think about grad school, the knowledge that our kid is so young definitely weighs on us. Are you still considering Wheaton?

Kacie said...

Jaimie - I think kids do know the difference at that age. By then he'd potentially be a year and a half old, and when one of my sisters was that age she was primarily in the care of a nanny and my mom was working. The situation wasn't BAD, but mom saw a direct decline in her mood and behavioral/ discipline issues because of it. It can work but I really don't like idea, both for me, and for him, and for our budget. :)

Rach - Yep, still considering Wheaton. And Denver now. And Ireland. :)

Deliverance said...

I think formal training is incredibly important. You used the word accountability, and that's a huge one.

But then I also agree that it is important for your son to have you there with him during these critical developmental years. Tough decision!

Have you looked at programs in the UK? Many master's programs take 12 months and universities and employers are usually very family friendly. Isaac could work full-time if needed and in Scotland you can stay on an additional 2 years to work and pay off your debt. It's expensive, but we lived frugally and did much better there financially than here.

Emily said...

Hey Kacie!

I just saw this post and toooootally identified with it so much. I really wrestled with "Is it wise to spend X years of school and tens of thousands of dollars when I really want to just be a good friend"... and came to the same conclusion, that the training IS necessary.

Anyway, I'm excited for you as you continue to pursue different options!

I'm starting a PsyD program at George Fox in Oregon this fall (very similar to the one at Wheaton- yay Wheaton!).

Hope you are well. Judah's adorable :-)