What I told the "baby counselors"
I recently had the opportunity to be the keynote speaker at a gathering of graduate students who are about to enter the counseling field (I jokingly refer to them as "baby counselors" in my head-- though I realize the irony that I was there to speak on the nobility of the profession). Not only was it an honor to be invited to speak, but it was also an unexpected opportunity to reflect on why I love doing what I do. Much of the speech addressed changes in the field (ex. new research and knowledge of neuroscience) and in society (ex. the ubiquitousness of technology), and how these changes are impacting the counseling profession. I won't bore you with those parts. However, I I do want to share the final note from my talk, since it touches on the "why" of counseling:
"...I saw a movie called Hector and the Search for Happiness recently (a movie I highly recommend), and one of the lines from the film was, 'Listening is loving.' I’ve said it already, but I cannot emphasize it enough: just the act of giving people your Presence is a gift, even if you say all the wrong things— or do a robotic “I. hear. you. saying. you. are. sad.” response. Just being there, and giving your attention, and your active presence, is huge.
Mother Teresa, who worked with the poorest of the poor in India, people who had been abandoned in the streets, visited the US back in the '90s, and an American reporter asked her which is the poorest country she had ever been to. She said, “I have been to many countries and seen much poverty and suffering. Everywhere I go people tell me of their hardships and struggles, and ask for help, and I give what I can. But of all the countries I have been to, the poorest one I have been to is America.” Somewhat shocked, the reporter informed Mother Teresa that America was one of the richest countries and questioned how it could be the poorest. “Because”, she replied, “America suffers most from the poverty of loneliness.”
There is no shortage of need for presence and connection, especially in this day and age. What we’re doing as counselors is an act of love. We are increasing the amount of love in the world, even as the world is trying really, really hard to stay busy and crowd out something so vulnerable as love. It is such a noble profession, and I’m so happy to welcome you all to it."