Counselor Finds Her Calling Working With High-risk Teens

This is the candid career story of a professional counselor as told to LatPro. This site features real stories from Hispanic professionals in a myriad of professions. If you have considered a career in the mental health industry, read on to learn what the job is really like from this professional counselor. Visit LatPro for more interviews with mental health workers, including one from a Psychotherapist, an Addiction Therapist, and many others. I am a professional counselor, working in a social services office that is overseen by the county government. I have 11 years experience in the field and I would describe myself as caring, driven and sympathetic. I am a Caucasian female. I’m not sure it has either helped or hurt my career, but being a woman does sometimes make it easier for young women to talk privately with me. I have yet to experience discrimination. I counsel young people in high risk communities, including teenage girls who are experiencing an unplanned pregnancy. One misunderstanding may be I am a psychiatrist or psychologist, which I am not. My job satisfaction is somewhere around an 8, on a scale of 1 to 10. I wish the pay scale was a bit higher, but overall I am extremely satisfied with my career and my workplace. I am constantly moved in my job. I speak with young people undergoing difficult times and am often able to help them find a solution or come to terms with what they face. I certainly feel as if I am doing what I’m meant to do. Sometimes I face moral and ethical problems in my work. Young people who confide in me have a level of trust and we speak in confidence. Sometimes, a situation arises where I feel a parent should be contacted, and I have to use my best judgment. My mother worked in this field and I paid attention to her work while I was growing up. If I could do it over, I would still choose this career. I learned to speak up for myself in getting promoted within the office. At one point, I had more experience than another counselor who was offered a pay raise, and I took the issue to the appropriate source to discuss my own salary. A strong skill I have is keeping the confidence and trust of the people you help and work with. It is a tool that helps me every day in my line of work. One unusual happening was the day I had a young couple come into my office, looking to get married. The teens were both 16 years old and the girl was a few months pregnant. They wanted to be married before telling their parents, and I had to let them know our offices were not designed for the function. Ultimately, they didn’t get married, but they have raised the child together. I go to work each day because I feel a drive each day to get to the files on my desk, to pick up cases that I know I can help with. Sometimes there is bureaucracy to cut through, but the kids make it worth the struggle. One frustrating thing about my job is answering to politics. Sometimes, there is a case I know needs attention, but because of political tape I have to pass the file on. This happens probably a few times a month. My job can be very stressful, and I feel pressure to live up to my responsibilities. I maintain a balance by spending quality time with my family. I and my fellow counselors make roughly $50,000. This is on the high end in my region, and I am able to support my family with the help of my husband. We more or less live the quality of life we wish to. I take about two weeks of vacation a year, but I wish it was more. I do get holidays off, which helps, but I sometimes feel spread thin. A Bachelor’s degree is enough education for this career, though a graduate degree gets you more money and better positions. Training programs can also help an individual get ahead. I would tell a friend to talk to other counselors, to get an insider’s look at what the daily work looks like. In five years I would like to have a managerial position within my department, but still doing the same sort of work I do today. JustJobs.com is a job search engine that finds job listings from company career pages, other job boards, newspapers and associations. With one search, they help you find the job with your name on it. Helping troubled person image from Shutterstock

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