Why I Became A Therapist

Hello and welcome to my first ever blog post! So please be kind if I haven’t figured out the best way to do this yet but I’m sure that in time I’ll improve. I figured that the best way to start a blog would be to explain who I am, why I became a therapist and why I’m starting this blog in the first place.

Who Am I?

As of 2021, I am 29 years old and I was born and raised in a small town about 40 minutes north of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I spent most of my childhood playing Nintendo video games (Super Mario World and Legend of Zelda: Windwaker were my favorites), reading pretty much everything I got my hands on (from Harry Potter to Stephen King), listening to Weird Al Yankovic, and playing outside with my friends. As an adult I still enjoy doing all of those things, although now when I hang out with friends it’s usually indoors.

I’ve spent most of my adult life being a college student and now I’ve recently started the post-college phase of my life which includes starting my career. Which brings me to why I chose being a therapist as my career versus the other options I considered. Like most people, especially nowadays, I considered several different career paths before landing on the one I’m in now. Here’s a look into the careers I thought about pursuing and why I ultimately decided not to pursue them:

Accountant

This was never a serious consideration but I remember back in high school thinking that being an accountant would check several of the boxes that I thought might fit me well: (a) having a stable, solid income (b) being good at math and (c) working primarily by yourself. The income sounded great and I was very shy growing up so this seemed like a great fit for me. I went to college having zero idea what I wanted to major in or what I wanted to do for a living so I tried to take a variety of classes that interested me or I thought I might be good at. So when I saw Intro to Accounting as an option I jumped at the chance to see if I could see myself doing this for a living. Maybe I just had a bad teacher but I struggled in the class and I didn’t enjoy learning about it either. I took that as a sign that this just wasn’t for me and I decided to give up on becoming an accountant.

Teacher

This was something I had dreamed about doing as a little kid and I even went as far as to write down all of my classmates in a notebook so I could take attendance and give them grades for assignments. As I got older this dream started to solidify in more realistic ways. I loved helping my friends when they couldn’t figure out their homework and in high school I volunteered to help my mom teach Sunday School at our local church.

So in college I kept this in the back of my mind and once I started seriously considering what to major in I started down the path of making this dream a reality. I got to shadow my friend’s sister who was an elementary school teacher for a day and realized first hand the challenges of teaching such young students. You both had to break down concepts for their level but also help teach them social skills (what is and isn’t acceptable around other people). Ultimately I realized that I didn’t love the reality of what being an elementary school teacher would entail so I decided to shift my sights to older students: high schoolers.

I found out that in order to be a high school teacher you had to first major in the subject you wanted to teach and then apply to the education program. I really loved the idea of teaching psychology but unfortunately that’s typically taught by social studies teachers, which would mean majoring in history and that was not an option for me. I decided why not become a math teacher? High school math came pretty easily to me so I decided that would be the best fit for me and that maybe one day once I’m already a teacher I could look into teaching psychology too.

The problem became two-fold: college math is beyond difficult and it turns out that commanding a classroom full of high school students isn’t one of my strong suits. High school math can be difficult at times but I always felt that I was capable of solving the problems once it’s been explained to me and I’ve reviewed the concepts involved. Then I started taking college math courses like Calculus (I had to take 3 different Calculus classes!) and Linear Algebra and I was blown away by how much more difficult it was for me and how it quickly becomes more abstract and more about having to prove that math concepts are true. I was really struggling in those classes and I found myself dreading those classes which didn’t sit right with me considering this was supposed to be my major.

At the same time I also found myself in social situations where I had to talk in front of a group of people and I found time after time that I hated it. I kept flashing to myself as a high school teacher having to do that EVERY single day teaching a subject that I didn’t love and I asked myself why I would do that to myself? Or to my future students for that matter? Who wants a teacher that isn’t passionate and struggles to talk confidently in front of the class.

Psychologist

After my high school teacher dreams were dashed with the reality of the job, I turned back to the one subject I’ve consistently loved even at the college level: psychology. The only problem was figuring out what I wanted to do with a psychology degree. I loved learning about psychology and even though it was challenging I also really enjoyed reading about and participating in psychological research. As a part of my major I had to create and develop my own psychological study which was both extremely challenging but also very rewarding and enjoyable. It was puzzle that was within my capability to solve. I even briefly volunteered as a research assistant where I got to help run a study with subjects and recording their data.

So naturally this felt like a good fit for me and it’s something that I wouldn’t mind pursuing part time in the future. What ultimately led me away from this path was not having a clear direction as to what kind of research I am actually passionate about. I love learning about a variety of topics but to force myself to pick one and spend months, if not years, pursuing this one topic in depth sounded very limiting to me. It also didn’t help that my only exposure to this type of research is from professors who do research part time. While I considered becoming a psychology professor and teaching at the college level because thankfully colleges allow professors to specialize in more specific areas instead of the high school mentality of being forced to teach a variety of different subjects but I still didn’t feel confident or comfortable commanding a classroom of students.

Now I had the psychology degree but no direction to do anything with it. I figured I should do some soul searching before applying to a graduate school in psychology.

Therapist

So how did I go from all of that to becoming a therapist? Well while I was doing some soul searching I had begun volunteering, and later working, at a crisis pregnancy center that helped provide support for pregnant or moms with young children. We gave out diapers, formula, wipes, clothes, car seats, cribs, and other important (and expensive) baby items to struggling moms but we also recognized the immense stress these women were experiencing and offered lay support. I say lay because no one there was a licensed or professional counselor but as a lay, non-expert they provided a listening ear. Most people don’t have people to confide in or feel like they have the support system to talk about everything they’re worrying about and we tried to over some version of that emotional support as well.

It was a challenging but eye-opening experience for me. For the first time I truly realized that although my life was very different on the outside from these women that actually on the inside we had so much more in common than I expected. This was an uncomfortable thing to realize: that deep down I assumed that because I’ve had certain privileges and experiences in my life that that somehow made me fundamentally different than someone with a different set of circumstance and life experiences. Now I would never have explicitly stated that I ever felt that way, but I was realizing that my surprise at being able to so easily connect to these women I was meeting with meant that I wasn’t as prejudice-free as I thought I was.

The experience also had another positive effect on me, I found myself putting the pieces together and realizing my talent in connecting and listening to other people’s stories (even if I didn’t know how to actually help them in that moment). Another part of working at this crisis pregnancy center was providing education to first-time moms about what to expect during the pregnancy, how to breastfeed (if that’s what they’re wanting to do), and how to take care of their baby. This helped me realize that my desire to become a teacher was more about figuring out what part of the problem their stuck on, what they’re thought process is, identifying the issue, and using that information to show them their misstep and guide them to the right path than about grading papers and keeping a group of people in line.

Turns out that the more I thought about it the more I realized that my biggest strengths were the building blocks to being a good therapist. As a life-long people pleaser, I’ve learned how to read people and to actively ask clarifying questions so I better know what I need to do next (to either do the task at hand or avoid causing conflict with them). I’ve always been curious about why people (including me) do what they do, which is also why psychology has always fascinated me. I’ve always loved reading, not only as an escape, but also as a window into someone else’s thoughts and perspective. I’m almost too understanding, which I know sounds like a humble brag, but while it makes me a good therapist, it also makes me less opinionated. When people ask my opinion on topics or someone’s disagreement, I may sway to one side but I have a hard time staking my claim into one side because I understand that both sides have valid points. I’ve also been told many times that I’m a good listener and that people feel comfortable telling me secrets.

I had come to realize that maybe I should be looking at my own strengths and weaknesses first and then looking at what types of careers I would be best suited for instead of trying to pick a subject matter and then trying to fit myself into that career. It took me a long time to get there but for once I finally had some confidence behind my career path, I was going to become a therapist!

Why Am I Starting This Blog?

So hopefully this blog as given you a small insight into who I am and how I ended up as a therapist but I know there are so many more things that I want to share with you which brings me to question at hand: why am I starting this blog? I’ve never had a blog before but I’ve always loved sharing my story and my insights with others so this is my opportunity to do that.

My goal is to give my personal experience with counseling and mental health topics, as well as sharing with you some of the tools I give my clients and hopefully you find helpful. I plan to explore a variety of different topics and I hope that this blog can be both fun and informative.

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