The motivation to become a counsellor

By Heather Barton

Recently I’ve been thinking about the decisions we make in life and the long term impact of these. One decision I made many years ago has impacted the whole of my life. That was to begin the journey of becoming a school counsellor.

I knew very little at the time about what that decision would entail – the years and years of study; the hours and hours of practice; the endless CPD; waiting for clients who didn’t show; wondering how I could possibly help someone who presented with so many difficult issues; the feeling of satisfaction when I realised I had helped a client in a significant way.

I wonder how such life changing decisions are made. What or who gives us the motivation to be involved, at great depth, with people who may be very deeply troubled? Literature suggests that counsellors are often seeking healing for themselves, as much as for their client. In fact, it is suggested that therapists have a desire to relieve the pain of others because they themselves have been wounded.

However, a study I conducted a while ago found no evidence that this was the case. Instead therapists expressed a strong inclination to help others, and chose the profession mainly because of their own natural gifting and interest in understanding people. There was also a strong passion and desire to support those who wanted to make changes in their lives and work on reaching their full potential. Some of those interviewed believed they had received a call from God for this kind of work.

My own motivation was a passion to work with children who for various reasons had led difficult lives. Having been a children’s worker in church for many years I had run Sunday schools, after-school clubs and holiday clubs and had heard some of the stories of individual children. A desire began to grow in me to become a school counsellor – to be able to help children by listening to their stories and bringing help and healing into their lives. The journey took me first to qualify as an adult counsellor and then to specialise in play therapy and working with children and young people.

Do I ever regret making this life changing decision? No, not at all. I would certainly make the same decision all over again. My life has been enriched by all that I have learned and the children, young people and adults I have worked with. I personally believe that for me this was a calling from God that has benefitted me beyond anything I could ever have imagined, and has helped many, many clients.

I wonder what was your motivation to begin training as a counsellor and if you ever regret it?