There are a lot of things that people don’t think about when they go into counseling. The hours, the paperwork, and even the clients can cause stress to counselors.
But what about you? Are you prepared for some of the challenges that come with being a counselor? Here are five common problems that can pop up in your career as a therapist:
Every counselor has to deal with difficult clients sometimes. Here are some tips for dealing with the most common types of difficult clients:
- The Uncooperative Client: This person refuses to talk or keeps changing the subject when you ask them questions. If this happens, try asking more open-ended questions like, “Tell me about your feelings” or “What did you do today?”
You should also validate their feelings by saying things like, “I understand why this is hard for you.” You can also use active listening techniques like nodding and repeating what they said back to them in a different way, e.g., “You said that…”
If they still refuse to cooperate, try gently summarizing what they’ve already told you and then giving them time alone before returning with new questions or ideas (e.g., “It sounds like it’s been hard for you since we last spoke…”).
- The Unmotivated Client: This person isn’t doing anything outside of therapy sessions to take care of himself/herself. It may be helpful for both parties if one session per week is devoted entirely to brainstorming ways that this person might feel better without needing professional help every day.
Not only deciding on exercises that this person can do, but also setting goals that will help you both measure their progress.
Managing The Business Side of Things
When you’re a counselor in private practice, you are your own boss. That means there are no managers to help you with the business side of things. You need to keep up with paperwork, manage finances and office staff and clients, and maintain your office space.
Most counselors choose their profession because they love helping other people through tough times. But logistical work and clerical duties are part of the deal that no one thinks of until it’s dumped on them and they see no way out.
If you are part of an established organization, there might be hired help who would help you with these duties. However, if you are running your private practice, you have to take care of them yourself.
It might be a good idea to hire an office administrator to take care of these duties if you can afford one. That way, you leave more time for yourself to spend with patients and do the things you love to do.
Another smart thing you should do is get Electronic Health Record software for your office. This software will keep your patient’s medical record, session notes, and treatment history all organized and make your job infinitely easier. However, there are many behavioral health EHR vendors out there. Make sure you get one that makes sense for you.
The behavioral health EHR software market is expected to have a compound annual growth rate of 19.6%. This indicates that more and more counselors are realizing the importance of having good EHR software in their offices. You should not neglect to get one for yourself unless you want to fall behind.
Being objective isn’t easy, especially when you’re dealing with issues that are affecting your clients on a very personal level. You may feel like you have to get close to them in order to help them, but this can lead you down the path of becoming too personally involved with your client. This is not only unethical but can also lead to burnout if it gets out of hand.
When this happens, it’s important for you as a counselor or therapist to recognize these feelings and take steps toward maintaining objectivity.
To help yourself avoid becoming overly involved in situations where objectivity is paramount (such as therapy), set up boundaries for yourself. Here are a few tips:
- Determine how much personal information about your clients is OK for them to tell you about themselves before telling them that they need more time alone with their thoughts.
- Stick closely with the facts at hand when discussing cases with colleagues; don’t allow yourself or anyone else on staff to get wrapped up in gossip about any particular case.
- Decide beforehand how much information about yourself you would share so that you can humanize yourself or help your client, but also don’t get too personally involved.
Lack of Funding
Lack of funding is a problem for many counselors. But no other group faces this as much as counselors who are employed by schools and other such institutes.
Many institutes don’t understand the value of looking after their students’ emotional well-being and don’t provide the counselors they employ with sufficient resources to do their jobs.
It might be helpful to build friendly relationships with other members of the faculty. Then you can show them, with the help of data and real-life examples, why your job is important and help you build support for your case.
However, it should be mentioned that there has been a shift in this trend. With the onset of the pandemic, many schools have realized the importance of providing their students with adequate counseling.
Treasa Fox, the head of student counseling at Atlantic Technological University, said that the number of college students seeking counseling increased from 12,850 to 14,390 from 2020 to 2021. That is almost a 12% increase.
Also, Forbes reports that 11% of US adults reported feeling symptoms of anxiety and depression in 2019. That number skyrocketed to 42% in 2020. Keeping up with that, investors poured in a whopping $1.5 billion in mental health-related start-ups the same year. With these facts in mind, one would hope that the days of underfunded counselors are slowly coming to an end.
Just because you help other people deal with their stressors doesn’t mean you don’t have stressors of your own. Counselors are often faced with problems that are difficult to solve. They may not have the resources or time to do what they must, and as a result, burnout is inevitable.
It’s important to remember that in order to avoid burnout, it’s crucial for counselors to take care of their own needs. This involves learning how you function best under stress and then making an effort to manage your stress accordingly.
Taking part in therapy as a therapist yourself is very important. In fact, in Europe, you need to complete a minimum of 250 hours of personal psychotherapy before being certified as a therapist.
It is not very easy counseling yourself like you counsel others. Therefore, make appointments with another therapist to help deal with your own problem. Or take some time off from work to blow off some steam. After all, if you are not at your best, you might have a hard time helping others reach their best as well.
Just like any other job, working as a counselor has its own set of challenges. You will probably face many others that are not mentioned above. But if you work hard and play smart, you can overcome any obstacles that come your way.