This paper will provide the reader with a reflection of my professional identity. This will focus on the role of a professional counselor and the differences between a professional counselor and other related professionals. It will also integrate how religious and spiritual beliefs can impact professional counseling. It will summarize my beliefs and values and what I plan to do so that I will not impose my beliefs on clients. Also, I will reflect on what I have learned during this course and how it will impact my future as a counselor.
Section I: Professional Counselor Role
The role of the professional counselor is to provide mental health services and substance abuse care to individuals, families, and groups (American Counseling Association, 2011). The professional counselor is trained to empower clients to achieve their “mental health, wellness, education, and career goals” (Neukrug, p. 5, 2014). There are many different fields in counseling such as social work, psychology, pastoral counseling, and psychiatry. All fields in counseling have similar goals to empower and support clients in all areas of life, however, there are huge differences between them all. There are different types of professional counselors. Professional counselors include school counselors, clinical mental health counselors, marriage and family counselors, addiction counselors, student affairs and college counselors, and rehabilitation counselors (Neukrug, 2014).
All professional counselors have a master’s degree in counseling, which provides them with broad trainings and expertise in individual, group, and family counseling, administering and interpreting assessments, and conducting research, just to name a few (Neukrug, 2014). Professional counselors differ from other fields of counseling from the trainings provided in different programs. Other related mental health professionals have different degrees, accrediting bodies, and credentials. For example, a professional counselor has master’s in counseling and is accredited by one or more of these associations, Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programs (CACREP), Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE), and Council on Rehabilitation Education (CORE). In contrast, a psychologist would have a doctorate in psychology, will be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of the American Psychological Associations.
Also, a social worker would have a master’s in social work from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. In summary, professional counselors differ from other related mental health professionals based on the degree in which trainings are different, the accrediting body, and credentials. In my journey towards becoming a Licensed Professional Counselor, my role as a counselor will change drastically throughout the process. Currently, I possess a bachelor’s degree in psychology and it poses limitations on what I can and cannot do in the field of counseling. For example, a counselor with a bachelor’s degree must be clinically supervised by someone who is licensed in the field and they cannot write nor conduct clinical assessments. In the future, I will be able to conduct and write clinical assessments, supervise counselors, and most importantly have the ability to practice independently and have third party reimbursement privileges. Third party reimbursement is one of the most important aspects of becoming a licensed counselor because the insurance companies have to reimburse for them for counseling and psychotherapy (Neukrug, 2014).
Also in my journey, knowledge and experience will continue to develop which will potentially make me a better counselor than I was in the past. My father is a psychologist and over the years I have seen him grow tremendously. My father has opened his own practice and he teaches me things as I continue my education. He is my inspiration and has motivated me to choose the field of counseling. Ironically, I was not always interested in the psychology and counseling field. My first two years of undergraduate school I was a Mathematics major until I took Advanced Calculus and decided that Math was not for me. Then I began taking more and more Psychology courses as electives and realized that I had found the information interesting. After speaking with my father, I made the decision to pursue a career in this field while also following in his footsteps. My main reason for wanting to counselor individuals, families, and groups is because I enjoy helping people and I would like to see them overcome their current issues. Also, I enjoy reading about psychology and counseling. Honestly, I am more passionate about studying the field of counseling than I am practicing it. I feel that my journey may lead me to researching. But throughout my career, I plan to display professionalism to help my clients.
Professionalism is one of the most important aspects of counseling. Lacking professionalism may potentially cause harm to the client. In my opinion, professionalism begins and ends with the code of ethics. I feel that if you abide by the code of ethics you have nothing worry about regarding professionalism. The code of ethics summarizes the standards of integrity, professionalism, and confidentiality. A counselor is supposed to abide by the legal and moral standards of the community (Grold, 1996). All professionals should dress business casual at all times during working hours. As a counselor, I will make sure I dress appropriately for the work that I am doing, I will abide by the code of ethics, and I will behave appropriately. Section II: Religious/Spiritual Beliefs and Counseling
As a counselor, it is imperative that you do not impose your values and beliefs on your clients. According to the American Counseling Association code of ethics (A.4.b., 2005), “counselors should avoid imposing values that are inconsistent with counseling goals”. I was born and raised as a Christian. I believe that a there is only one God and that Jesus was the Son of God. My parents taught me that one should not have sex before marriage, a man and woman suppose to get married, one should not commit adultery, and one should not steal nor kill. Even though these are my beliefs, I cannot let it effect or come into my line of work.
As a counselor, I will work with clients with different beliefs, values, nationalities, and cultures on a daily basis. It is important that I explore my own identities, so that it does not affect the clients. Currently, I feel that the only populations that would give me difficulty would be pedophiles and clients with HIV. And as a counselor, I know that I should not feel that way. I should be able to help and support clients without judging. I feel that with maturity and more experience that I would be able to overcome these two concerns. Section III: Course Experience and Summary
In this course, I have learned a great deal about what a counselor is, how to become a professional counselor, how to be an effective counselor, and multicultural counseling. This course has explained how professional counseling is different than other mental health professionals. Professional counseling is different than other mental health professionals by the different trainings by degree, the accrediting body, and credentials. This course has taught me the different professional associations in counseling and related fields. Also, this class has taught me the benefits of joining a professional association such as counseling resources, networking opportunities, and professional development programs just to name a few.
I think learning about the characteristics of an effective counselor was the most influential to me. Neukrug (2014), described the nine characteristics of an effective counselor as empathy, acceptance, genuineness, wellness, cultural competence, the “it” factor, compatibility with and belief in theory, competence, and cognitive complexity. Also another interesting thing that I learned in this course was multicultural counseling. Neukrug (2014), defines multicultural counseling as focusing on “the development of counselor competencies in the counselor’s work with all clients” (p.142).
Based on everything that I have learned from this course, I feel that I fit the requirements, traits, and values for being an effective counselor.
In conclusion, this course has provided me with a brief orientation to counseling. I will begin developing a strong professional identity by understanding the role of a professional counselor, being open to learning the craft of counseling, and abiding by the code of ethics. One thing that I want to take away from developing my professional identity is to not separate my own experiences from professional ones. People have this perception that counselors have the perfect life but in reality everyone goes through issues. And I want to use those experiences to grow and learn so that I can relate with my clients.
American Counseling Association (2005)
Grold, K. (1996). How to find a good therapist: Finding & evaluating a private therapist. Retrieved from http://www.healingwell.com/library/health/grold1.asp Neukrug, E. (2014). A brief orientation to counseling . Belmont, CA: BrooksCole, Cengage Learning.