Transitioning to become a therapist
April 16, 2014 12:22 PM   Subscribe

Evidently, I am a very good listener. Is there any realistic chance of using this to transition to either a career or a side-job as a counselor of some sort?

Recently, it's been brought to my attention that I am a good listener and that people like to talk to me - like, multiple people from multiple departments have recently told me, independent of one another, "You're really good to talk to, you're a good listener, it has helped me talk things out." One person made a sort of Monday morning "appointment" to come by and talk through their issues of the week. To be clear, I don't do anything to instigate this, but it's something I've been aware of and am becoming more aware of. Bartenders tend to spill their guts to me rather than the other way around, and I'm not joking about that.

I don't know why this is, but it's got me wondering if there might be any ways to use these powers for good. I'm at a point in my career where going back to school to become a full-on psychologist is not an option, but are there other counselor-type roles that might be beneficial to someone? Are there non-woo accreditations for something like this? Are there volunteer opportunities that would benefit from someone like me, or (long shot here I suspect) is there any realistic vector by which this might become a career?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (13 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Samaritans suicide hotline needs volunteers
posted by Sophont at 12:30 PM on April 16, 2014 [5 favorites]

Where do you live? Check with your local community colleges to see if there are two year diploma courses you can take. In Ontario for example, some course names to look for might be "Human Services Worker" or "Social Service Worker" or "Child and Youth Worker" or "Addiction and Mental Health Worker." You won't get rich with these jobs, but it can be a very rewarding way to spend your work life.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 12:31 PM on April 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Career coach/job coach/life coach are all things that may not require any further degrees or schooling, depending on your jurisdiction.

Nthing a crisis hotline of some kind, if that's something you'd be up for.
posted by rtha at 12:33 PM on April 16, 2014

This is a very geographically dependent question; Here's a list of requirements broken down by state (from 2009), (but I'm told that these don't change much…it will at least give you an idea of where you need to be). Some states are cracking down on unlicensed practitioners, so, again, check your local areas laws around this, the penalties can be kind of expensive.

There aren't many non-woo accredidations out there; almost every state requires mental health workers to have their license from somewhere (different states requirements towards getting said license are wildly different…), and the requirements are becoming more strict as the industry grows.

There are a few states and a few job descriptions that don't require licensure, but these are low paying, and not career track jobs.

If you're looking to do some time as a social worker track, there are sometimes reimbursement plans if you're working for an agency while going back to school. A good friend in eastern Oregon did this several years back; I believe the program has expired there, but his masters was paid in full by his agency for a few years worth of work. But literally the day after he was free and clear of his contract, he quit to become a coffee roaster.
posted by furnace.heart at 12:45 PM on April 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

As the child of an MSW/LCSW there's a huge difference between being a good listener/good advice giver, and being a counselor/therapist.

There is methodology, ethics and laws that need to be considered. It's not a coincidence that counseling is regulated and certified and that education programs exist to insure that people know what these things are and how they're used.

Excellent listeners and advice givers, people who others look up to and admire, can also be cult leaders.

You have a natural gift. That's great. You have an aptitude, even better. If you believe that you'd like to do this for a living, check out certification programs and educational programs.

Otherwise, you can charge people to have coffee with you and to talk to you, there's no law against it, but it's not counseling.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:46 PM on April 16, 2014 [12 favorites]

At one time, I considered becoming either a social worker or psychologist. I also wondered what my options might be for doing similar work without a degree. I think I was in Washington state at the time.

I looked up the laws and, basically, if you want to charge people for listening to them, you can do that. You can't claim to have credentials you do not have. You will need to look up some of the laws and probably register as a business. You will need to put time and effort into figuring what to call your service, how much to charge, etc. How you frame it will matter, whether "life coach" or whatever.

Making up a new business from scratch is quite hard, hard enough that many people who try it decide to throw in the towel and go back to the grind of a job even though they may have started a business out of disgust with a day job. It might be a whole lot easier to go back school and get credentials to do whatever job you think your talent makes you suited for.

Also, you could look around at various programs and see if there are some with a lower burden which would get you into something that interests you without having to get a master's degree. Hopefully, other answers here will include some job titles and suggested credentials that are less intensive than what is required for psychologists or social workers but still up your alley.
posted by Michele in California at 12:55 PM on April 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'll say this, my Dad has a BA in Fine Art and got a full ride scholarship to UC Berkeley for his MSW, this is a very good road to travel if you want to be a therapist.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:05 PM on April 16, 2014

nthing local hotlines. My teeny town has a 24/7 volunteer distress hotline.

There's also a ride-along kind of a program where you go with police or firefighters to sit with a person who is receiving bad news, such as the death of a loved one. Your job is to emotionally support them and be a bridge until their friends or family arrive. I can't remember what its called but it is a program that exists.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 1:55 PM on April 16, 2014

I would also like to suggest checking out a crisis center/hotline to volunteer for. I recently started a training program to volunteer for one in my area, and the training has so far been very thorough and I will get a certificate at the end. For me it will most likely remain a volunteer gig at least for the time being, but I know that many of the people who currently work for the organization came to it through the volunteer program so that might be a nice way to explore if you are thinking of making a career move in the future.
posted by Shadow Boxer at 2:24 PM on April 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

N'thing try a crisis line. It is VERY different type of compassion and approach you need to take, as opposed to people who already respect you, operate with the idea that you are acting in good faith and have the resources to be employed (which is a huge issue - someone that cannot hold onto a job due to domestic violence, systematic problems, addiction/mental health often cannot act on what seems like obvious advice/counselling "just leave him, stop using, take medication to stop the delusions"). Crisis line work can be equal parts frustrating and rewarding.
posted by saucysault at 5:13 PM on April 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Or you could think of ways to transition into management, perhaps with the support of your employer. Depending on work place culture and management style, managing people can involve empathy, support, analysis and problem-solving.
posted by glasseyes at 1:53 AM on April 17, 2014

I had the same career path as you! I realized that my workday as an IT tech was in fact a workday of empathic listening. I have a family background in psychology - 'learned to read reading Freud' and all that! So I knew what kind of time and $ commitment was involved in a doctorate. Not for me. (Incidentally, because of the internship requirement - I was already a grown woman with bills and family, I couldn't just walk on my financial responsibilities, and I didn't have a SigOt to take up the slack).

So, I went to school part time for a few years and got a Masters degree. A licensable Masters degree is a much more appropriate degree than a doctorate if therapy is whatcha want to do.

You could get a PsyD, but honestly, I would do a clinical professional psychology Masters or a LCSW prep Masters first. It's much less of a time commitment and will allow you to move into the field.

Not easy to do while working full time, but far from impossible.
posted by The Noble Goofy Elk at 6:08 AM on April 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

I know I'm late to this thread...but if you feel like helping people over the internet, I think your listening abilities would be welcomed at 7 Cups of Tea.
posted by Yma at 7:02 PM on April 18, 2014

« Older What Video Camera Should I Get For Recording...   |   Recommendations for Puget Sound civil law firm Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.