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An Open Letter to My Students V: Most of You Won’t Do Therapy, but You Can Still Be Therapeutic

Updated: Jun 13, 2022

I was out with a few colleagues the other day. We went to lunch and as I was chowing down on my southern relish sandwich listening to the two of them talk about work, one of them, who just became a professor said, “We tell students they’ll get out and have this ‘skill,’ as though they’re going to go out and hang their own shingle. Really most of them will have to go out and get a J-O-B.” I stopped mid bite, bits of sandwich hanging out of my mouth.

That captured exactly how I felt for a long time. I remember when I graduated. Diploma in hand I was ready to start making those big counselor bucks. Surely all I had to do was walk into an interview and say, “I’m here! I have a MASTERS degree!” and they’d pay me what I’m worth. Right?

Not exactly. It’s not that getting a job was hard. Getting a job was easy. The problem was that my training was in how to do therapy, and the jobs, well they didn’t quite have therapy in mind. Over the past few years I’ve had a series of “therapy” jobs and it seems to me that these jobs have fallen into three basic types: Social Worker, Agent of Social Control, and Camp Counselor.

Social worker is what I did until really recently, (as in I still work there but I turned in my 30 day notice). At least every other weekend you could find me on the Behavioral Health Unit of the local hospital doing bio-psycho-socials and conducting a group or two. The majority of jobs like this entail making sure people have the resources they need. It’s a lot of phone calls and paperwork. It can feel … well its not always the most engaging work.

I worked with people who made the job enjoyable, but the work itself was not fulfilling. When I was in my PhD program my dream was not to set up after care appointments for 7.5 hours a day.