Navigating the Transition From Graduate School to the Counseling Field

Transitioning from graduate school to the counseling field can be a challenge to say the least. From coursework to practicum to the field of counseling can often be compared to navigating a slick road under construction. One must navigate the knowledge he/she has gained with the rules and regulations governing the counseling field along with causing no harm, while gaining the confidence of a supervisor, and creating a name for yourself. Along the way are eye opening discoveries, the need for self-evaluation, and constant reality checks.

Graduate school: a time for creating goals, cramming for exams and seeking out opportunities for a practicum that is geared towards transitioning you to the “real world”, this is a time when you begin to feel you are ready to start your career and the end is near. Roadblock #1: finding a practicum site isn’t easy. Many clinics and other practicum sites aren’t easy to find as students don’t generate business and requires extra time by supervisors who are already busy with their own caseload/job/etc. Once the practicum site is secured roadblock #2 comes along. What next?

Unfortunately most schools don’t prepare their students adequately for the road ahead. Many students are surprised to learn that once graduated they can apply for a training license with a supervisor signing for the 3,000 supervised hours they will still need, passing a statutes exam and a state exam before being eligible for an LPC. It is not uncommon to hear that individuals hold a training license for several years without gaining full licensure (LPC) due to the requirements stated above. What does this lead to? Qualified people working outside of their field with mounting student loan debt.

So what happens when you find supervision and pass that roadblock? Of course another roadblock. Unless you land a job in a hospital or largely funded clinic the next roadblock is marketing yourself and financially surviving until you create a caseload that you can live off of. Keeping in mind that this whole process requires continuing your knowledge and (the obvious) only seeing clients you know you are knowledgeable and skill-full enough to see without causing harm.

Roadblocks, struggles, financial hardship. What is it all worth when you make it? The truth is you never “make it”. As a good counselor you will always strive to continue learning, continue to gain feedback and supervision from colleagues and constantly self-evaluate to ensure you are able to help others. Along the way you will be challenged to separate yourself from your clients’ traumas and challenges and be uplifted by those who create their own change and as a result no longer need your services.

In conclusion, it is imperative that supervisors (willing to take that role) educate those beginning the journey, schools to improve the transparency of the road ahead, and students to be realistic about the challenges they will face. With all of the roadblocks ahead, is a counseling career worth it? Absolutely! With the right guidance, supervision, personal support and personal growth, navigating the path to full license can be fulfilling with huge payouts to those who are empowered because of it.