These days, when it comes to growing industries, it’s hard to go past healthcare. In fact, according to information released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the 20 fastest-growing occupations in the USA, many are healthcare-related.
In particular, there is a continual demand for workers in the mental health arena. Take this kind of career path, and you could work in schools, government departments, hospitals, clinics, companies and various other types of organizations.
Counseling is one job type that many university students consider. If you go down this path, it will enable you to help hundreds of suffering patients and to feel like you’re making a difference. However, keep in mind that while there are plenty of opportunities, there is also plenty of competition too. Of course, you will have to complete relevant qualifications to get a foot in the door first, such as a counseling or social work degree, not to mention specific additional courses to help you stand out from the crowd, like autism certificate programs or studies in ADHD or other areas.
To get the career of your dreams, though, you must also think about developing relevant personal traits that help you to become the best possible counselor. You can start honing these characteristics right now, while you’re still at university. Read on for some of the top traits you must keep in mind now and into the future.
For starters, note that counselors definitely need to be flexible to be successful in their roles. For example, you may need to be adaptable when it comes to things such as the hours you work, where you work, the types of responsibilities you look after and whether you are employed in a company, government department, private practice or another spot.
In particular, though, counselors need to be flexible when it comes to treating patients. Since everyone is so different, it’s important to be able to adapt accordingly. You need to change the way you communicate and respond to and meet people’s individual needs, rather than sticking to a one-size-fits-all approach. Different people can, after all, respond differently to different communication styles, treatment plans, and other factors.
Of course, to help others, counselors also need to be self-aware themselves. That is, they must be able to look within themselves to notice any unmet psychological needs and desires that could be affecting their output and outlook. For instance, many people have a need to be seen as competent or a strong desire for more intimacy.
It’s important for mental health practitioners to be self-aware because they don’t want to mix up their own issues with that of their clients. They also want to be careful not to place their own issues and worries onto their patients.
Self-awareness helps, too, when it comes to performance evaluation. Counselors who understand themselves are more open to evaluating their job performance honestly and will be able to improve over time. While of course counselors get feedback from clients, managers, colleagues and the like over the years, being able to self-evaluate is important and can lead to much better performance.
As you would imagine, if you want to guide and treat patients well, you need to have excellent communication skills. Counselors must be able to explain ideas and suggestions, not to mention treatment plans, in a clear manner that ensures people understand. In addition, they need to be good listeners and able to read and convey body language.
Good counselors tend to notice the tones, behavior patterns, social cues and various types of body language displayed by those they’re treating. Through this, they can read between the lines. Patients often don’t talk out loud about everything they’re feeling or thinking, after all. Top counselors think of the right questions to ask and don’t let themselves become distracted by their own thoughts or issues during sessions.
When it comes to “soft” skills (which are incredibly important), empathy is one of the most vital for counselors. To make patients feel at ease, and to truly see how to treat them effectively, you need to be able to vicariously experience a person’s feelings or situation and identify with what they’re going through.
Empathy makes it possible to truly understand people’s problems, and then, in turn, to understand how best to help them. Patients certainly notice whether or not mental health workers have empathy, as this trait helps them to feel more understood, comforted, safe and supported.
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