The following are excerpts from my very first (!!) paper for grad school. They asked me to describe what my professional identity will be when I'm a counselor. Ya got me, I barely know up from down at the moment, let alone what I'll be when I'm done with this program. It reminds me of a similar paper I wrote for undergrad about what kind of teacher I'd become. I'd never taught a class. 

So why speculate?

To get my brain rolling towards the future I suppose. To begin to associate myself with my future profession. This is a good practice for any of us with a new future ahead: Begin to visualize your self in it. Speculate. Relate. Own it. Create your space, and move in. Here is what I see in the distance. 

Thanks for reading. :)
As a beginning counselor, shaping our professional identity is a silently running theme behind our studies and dialogue. As we read and write we search for values to imitate and relate to. This will be an ongoing process for the rest of our careers, varying in degree as we mature and become solidified in our own practices. In this paper I begin to explore my thoughts about professional identities and what mine may become.

I’ve worked for some time developing my professional identity as  teacher. Through different teaching scenarios it continues to evolve, though a few core elements remain. These core elements are also part of who I am as a person, and so they will transfer into my new career as a mental health counselor. I believe that an authentic relationship is the best way for me to connect with clients.

Gestalt Therapy’s focus is on present awareness, and the client coming to change through becoming more aware of who they actually are (Corey, 2009). This focus reminds me of the Taoist approach to life. It also sounds similar to a few training for climbing books I’ve read. Arno Ilgner, in The Rock Warrior’s Way said, “Awareness is the key to beginning any process and to solving any problem... If you are unaware of how you think you have very little power to change. Without change there is no improvement” (2003). The idea of mindfulness and a client’s interactions with the world can be directly applied to climbing as a sport. I would be interested to look into the application of training for climbing and it’s parallels in counseling, and the potential for designing a program that would use not only the challenge of climbing and the experience of being outside, but the practice of mindfulness and the subsequent dialogue as an agent of change.

In contrast to Gestalt Therapy, which is by nature not action focused, is Adventure Based Psychotherapy (ABP). According to Bandoroff and Newes (2004), “ABP is a therapeutic modality combining therapeutic benefits of adventure experiences and activities with those of more traditional modes of therapy.” The experiential learning takes place when clients become an active participant in their therapy. Gass (1993) took the principles of experiential learning and applied them to experiential therapy. What resulted was a list of principles that resemble the well established premises of theories like cognitive, humanistic and behavioral theory. These principles include client participation, meaningful activities, client-therapist relationship development, dissonance as a platform for change and relevant consequences of the learning.

Even before joining the MAP program, I knew I wanted to learn how to use experience to help others, much like experience has helped me. ABP seems to be the perfect medium to bring together multiple theories of counseling and apply them in a non traditional setting, which may result in even more meaningful change. The elements of humanistic theory that I appreciate, empathy, the relationship with the client, and exploration as a guide to insight are obvious in ABP. Gestalt theory also plays a role where we see the use of wilderness and the environment and how the client responds and interacts while in it.

The role of a counselor is to facilitate change. The client seeks out the counselor seeking that change, and the counselor provides the relationship, space, tools and support necessary for that change to occur. There are a variety of ways to accomplish this, just as there are a variety of types of clients and counselors. The unique pairing of people, skills and the timing in which they occur can bring phenomenal results.



09/29/2011 10:26

Thanks for sharing this, Aleya! Very interesting to read. Congrats again on going for what you want and believe in!


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