For most people their own problems provide more than enough drama without the need to take on the issues of others. Even if you offered to pay them, they’d probably just politely say “no thank you” and move along. So why did I become a therapist? Why do I spend my days with my nose thoroughly buried in other people’s problems? This is a question that I’ve been asked a lot over the course of my career.
I’d love to say that I got into therapy for a sensible reason such as earning lots of money, but the truth is that being a therapist involves much less in the way of material reward than you may think. Trust me, if you want to get into this profession purely for the money, study engineering or any other technology or science related degree instead. You’ll be rolling in dough in no time.
No, like being a teacher or a nurse, being a therapist is something you can only do if you have a deep, driving motivation for it. To me people have always been deeply mysterious. While many people find satisfaction in exploring the outer world (and rightly so), I have always been thrilled with matters of the inner world.
For all of our technology and scientific research, we still know very little about the human psyche. When I first studied psychology this was even more so. Mental illness is still a Wild West of competing ideas and treatments. If navigating uncharted waters is your thing, then this may very well be the career path for you.
There are many paths that can lead a person to taking up the mantle of therapist, but for me it was an extremely personal experience. If you had told me as a child that I would one day be in a position to help other people ease their pain and get their lives on track, I would have had a very hard time believing you. Like so many people, I had a pretty rough childhood. The details of why my childhood was difficult are not all that important. What matters is that I had a series of emotional and physical lows long before I had reached adulthood. Not the best start to a new life.
It was my own experience as a recipient of professional therapy that opened my eyes to the good that mental health services can do. My therapist helped me make sense of my life and got me on track to live a meaningful life. It made such a fundamental change to my world that I came to the conclusion that being a therapist was my calling in life.
Since then, I have helped more people than I care to count with a range of problems that I could never have imagined when I first started my studies. Every time I help someone I don’t just learn a bit more about people, I learn also about myself. Therapy is more than just a service that I provide, it’s a way to connect with others and myself. As far as I am concerned, if I can do through therapy for someone what was done for me, it would make it all worth it in the end. Have I been able to do that? At the risk of sounding very British, and perish the thought that I should blow my own proverbial trumpet, my response is one of, I will never know, but I like to think that somewhere along the line I’ve helped someone as much as I was helped. One way or another, I intend on keeping it up until the very end.
Libby Seery currently teaches others how to become a therapist. Click on the link to find out more about her coaching course.