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Joan: Why I Became a Counselor

Before becoming a counselor, I was a high school teacher and really enjoyed my job. As an active faculty member for my 11 years as a teacher, I moderated several clubs, coached the debate team, organized pep rallies, planned dances, led service trips and retreats, and served on faculty committees. In addition to this, I also worked as assistant director of the school resource program and supported students during study halls as well as after school. My solid dedication to the school community helped me form meaningful relationships with colleagues, students and their families.

I was one of the teachers to whom students would turn when they needed a confidante and a trusted adult, and I found this part of my job incredibly important. During my career journey as a teacher, it became clear that my passion for teaching stems from the joy of connecting with and helping others. I love being there for others, having room for them, walking with them, and helping them navigate life’s challenges.

But, at one point in life, I started to wonder — what would it look like if I shifted gears and became a counselor?

I KNOW I AM WHERE I need to be. I have had the privilege of helping people live their best lives.

This was a decision I did not take lightly because of my true love for teaching, but it was hard to ignore the urge to wonder: Should I take the risk?

I no longer wonder now. I know I am where I need to be. I have had the privilege of helping people live their best lives. I strive to remain a constant presence throughout the process, throughout the ups and downs of the journey.

Fulfillment & Joy

The relationships I formed and nurtured as a counselor are sacred to me. I am grateful to have chosen this path because I feel fulfilled in the work I do.

I feel fulfilled when my clients feel safe enough to “go there.” It takes serious guts to participate in counseling because it requires us to be vulnerable and talk about things we tend to keep to ourselves. When my clients disclose, I know I have done the work to create a non-judgmental, brave space where they can speak freely.

I feel fulfilled when my clients advocate for themselves. It can be challenging to name our needs, and we often struggle to find the language to do so. As we build insight, we feel more confident in speaking up; we learn how to be assertive. I witness empowerment as my clients seek to have their needs met through clear communication, and I celebrate with them as they find their voices and express themselves with conviction.

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I feel fulfilled when my clients experience positive changes in their mood. When we struggle with feelings of depression, those feelings interfere with the way we participate in life, and we can feel low motivation, irritable, or even numb. I take pride in helping people gain relief from depression; there is nothing like witnessing my clients’ progress as they experience life-changing shifts towards an improved mood and all of the benefits that come with it.

I feel fulfilled when my clients no longer feel anxious. Anxiety can feel intrusive because it lies in our thoughts as well as our bodies; this experience of excessive worry can lead to preoccupation and feelings of being on edge. When my clients are able to move beyond the restrictions of anxiety and are able to access clarity and serenity, we revel in that newfound freedom.

A Chosen Path

I became a counselor because I have always been a helper, and I find meaning in my own life when I am offering support, guidance and empathy. I love helping people build upon and cultivate their strengths so that they can take active steps towards the lives they want to lead. This is what fills my cup, and every day, I feel lucky that I followed my intuition and chose this path.

Joan McDonald
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