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06:30 PM on 02/14/14
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Do you guys have a chapter in Richmond (VA)?
06:36 PM on 02/14/14
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07:30 PM on 02/14/14
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I have a question for Jamie or anyone else that's been in counseling - how do you reconcile the fact that a counselor is someone who basically gets paid to listen to you vent about life? What about friends?

I had a counselor before (that I can no longer go to due to a change in location) that I felt I was almost close friends with, because (against common advice, apparently?) he let me into his life a little as I let him deeper into mine. I've tried to keep up contact a little here and there, because he did make a great shoulder to lean on, but he's too busy with his own life, and other clients, and so on. So it feels like because I'm not paying him anymore, I'm not as worth his time.

Do counselors really care? Why do I spill all of my thoughts out in that room anyway? I find myself struggling with this question all the time, lately.

I can't speak as a professional, but I used to struggle with this on a very regular basis. I went to summer camp when I was a kid and always wanted to be close friends with my counselors, and wondered why they put walls up if I really mattered to them. It came up again a few times when I was in therapy and really liked who I was talking to. It's a fine line where you have to feel close enough to be able to talk to someone openly while still being entirely separate from their life.

I can say that as I got older it became easier to tell if someone actually cared and understand that they would not be in this field if they didn't truly care. It's a very difficult profession, and something that you often take with you once you're off the clock, and it takes wanting to help on a deep level to be able to do it well.

I also have experienced the other side of this type of thing by going back and becoming a counselor at my camp. There were things that I dealt with as an adult that perfectly mirrored what I had been through as a child, but from an older perspective it was clear that those boundaries serve a very important purpose in those kind of relationships. When you take on a role as a mentor you have to keep a lot of yourself separate, or things can get very messy very fast, and can end up causing more harm than good. The same is true for professional counselors, only on a much bigger and more important scale. Both parties have to accept that the relationship is there to serve a specific purpose, and figure out how that works in each specific situation.

I wouldn't doubt that the man who helped you cares, but the relationship will obviously be changed by your move. Is there any chance you could continue having sessions over the phone or Skype? Some therapists offer that and can continue to be a support over a long distance. It's definitely a tricky situation, and I hope you can figure it out. And really, don't think that you don't matter, it's just the nature of the beast.

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