School counseling was not a career I had ever imagined I’d go into. From the time I was a junior in high school, I knew I wanted to go into a helping profession, but it wasn’t until last year that the thought of becoming a school counselor changed my life!
In previous posts I’ve shared my desire of becoming a mental health counselor that specialized in treating eating disorders. That was my one & only plan all throughout my high school & undergraduate education. To help give me experience for this career, in winter of 2017-2018 I applied for a job at an eating disorder treatment center & for a counseling graduate program. I had my mind set on obtaining what I thought would be my dream career.
However, on what is now known as one of the top 10 WORST days of my 22 years, I found out that I didn’t get into the graduate program. A couple of hours later, I found out I didn’t get the job at the eating disorder RTC. My heart broke reading the depressingly generic “this position is very competitive and we have decided to pursue other candidates” emails, that to me, screamed, YOU are not good enough!!! That night I questioned my worth & my capabilities. I began to think that maybe I wasn’t cut out for counseling or helping people through recovery. Luckily, Austin pushed me to get back up and continue to pursue what I had originally set my mind on doing.
In the summer of 2018 I landed a job at a different adolescent treatment center & finished up my bachelors degree. I still thought I would try to become a mental health counselor, though each day I questioned whether that was truly what I wanted to do. Instead of feeling passionate and excited when I thought about that career, I felt uneasy & stressed. Working at the treatment center was eye opening for me. I was learning so much about mental illness & how it effects teens in all areas of their life, including their education. When I didn’t have to cook dinner for the kiddos, I loved being in the classroom with them for the end of their school day. I liked talking to them about school & their future plans for their education & careers. I started to love the academic side of treatment.
Then one day, a student who was about to graduate high school got an acceptance letter to the U of U. He had major treatment burn out, and was struggling to stay motivated. That letter sparked an excitement for him & became his motivation through difficulties that arose. As I listened to him talk about his anticipation for college, the thought, “you could do this as a school counselor“, popped into my head. That night I started researching school counseling and, to be as dramatic as that night felt, I fell in love.
To be honest, up until that point I thought that all that a school counselor did was help set up schedules & tell students about scholarships. If you got on a school counselors good side, they might even ‘sneak’ you into a class that was too full. I had no idea how much more they were responsible for. Not only can they help prepare students for college by telling them about scholarships, they motivate students to achieve overall academic success, open up possibilities of career opportunities for students who may be limiting themselves, they are advocates for each of their students & they can help students with social & emotional development.
Schools help raise children. From first grade on, they are spending about 8 hours a day, 180 days a year in a school setting. In my mind this is an incredible opportunity to not only teach them basic education, but also how they can apply this education for a career. And just as (if not more) important, school is a place to teach social & emotional skills. School counselors are the ones who can provide the programs and resources for this social & emotional learning to take place.
So, I took the thought of becoming a school counselor & I
ran sprinted with it. I switched from working as a residential staff to becoming a member of the academic team at the treatment center. I applied for the U of U’s School Counseling program. I kept researching school counseling & started reading book after book & article after article about the profession. I was SO BLESSED to be able to get into the U’s program & with one month in, I couldn’t feel more passionate about this profession.
I will still always have a place in my heart for eating disorder recovery & advocacy. I hope as a school counselor, I can build a prevention & awareness program in my school (& hopefully in other schools). I attribute part of the development of my eating disorder to what I was taught in school, and while I am grateful for my battles, I would never want another student to be able to say the same thing. School should be safe & supportive. It should be a place where students learn the truth about mental illness as well as the resources that are available. I feel as though eating disorders are still taboo, and I want to change that.
I cannot wait to continue this journey of becoming a school counselor.