I had my first counsellor training in 1983, while I was in high school. I say it was counsellor training because that is how it was presented to me, but in reality it was religious propaganda. Where I grew up in middle America, locals would rarely understand the distinction. Anyway, I spent some weeks being schooled in how to deal with converts to Christianity. With the better part of four decades, five university qualifications, evolution beyond religion and many life experiences separating me from those days in 1983, my perspective is very different to what it was then. One thing, though, I was excited about helping others and I applied myself to learning what I could to make a difference for others.
I came from a long line of “helpers” and that is really all I ever wanted to do. When I started university, I began studies that I thought would help me to be of service to others. At the end of my studies, I grew up and out of religion. I was unsure what I wanted to do with my life – only that I wanted to help others struggling. I went through a series of options – from going to law school to work with migrants, to training in teaching. Nothing seemed right.
I had my own difficulties in 2008, as my marriage ended. Days into my suffering, I remembered my love of counselling. I remembered a course in Person-Centred Therapy I took my last semester as an undergraduate. I remembered my desire to help. In the depth of my pain, I realised what I wanted to do. From that pain, I have created something beautiful – a life of service. I began my Master of Counselling in February of the next year. I began volunteering for a telephone crisis line. My love for therapy has not wavered.
Our difficulties can allow us to consider options and they can cause us to focus on what really matters. Something good can come from pain, even if it doesn’t seem possible at the time.