In his eponymous book, the ancient Chinese Daoist philosopher, Zhuangzi (or, somebody claiming to be Zhuangzi, at least) wrote that the "True Person of the Dao" (i.e. "enlightened person" or "masterful person" or "mystical sage" or whatever) helps people, but doesn't take any joy or pride in it, because, on some level, people are resentful that they need help in the first place, and therefore are on some level resentful of the person who helps them. 

I would be willing to bet that every counselor/therapist has met their fair share of clients who were quite obviously resentful that they had needed the help of a counselor/therapist at the time that they were seeing them (fuck me, pronouns galore, but I think you know what I'm saying). I've spent a good portion of my career working in the substance abuse field of counseling, which means I've spent a lot of my time working with the population of clientele known as "mandated" clients. Mandated clients are, of course, mandated to attend counseling. They don't technically choose to attend counseling. Someone's forcing them to go in exchange, usually, for their freedom. It's usually a probation or parole officer, or a social worker, or a judge, or a case manager at their halfway house who has mandated counseling as part of their criminal justice proceedings. In short, some criminal justice professional who has been granted some sort of oversight and mandating powers requires someone under their purview to attend substance abuse and/or mental health "treatment." 

What that means is I've seen a lot of people who have already had good chunks of their pride and dignity chiseled from them, and having to come see some clueless, upstanding geek like me in order to "learn how to live" or some shit, really chafes whatever pride and dignity is left. Criminals and drug addicts already feel like shit, and then they gotta listen to some obtuse, oblivious numb-nuts like Joe Green tell them how to fix things, as if they already don't know, if they even want to fix things in the first place. 

Mandated clients are really resentful of my help, is what I'm saying. At least at first. 

I don't blame the clients, though, mandated or not. I hate when I admit I need help. I hate going to the therapist myself. I'm a therapist, why do I need a therapist to tell me what I already know? I hate when something on my car goes kaput and then I have to ask somebody to come look at it--usually a cousin or close friend--and I feel like the biggest moron in existence as they explain how easy it is to identify what was wrong with my carburated fuel-injection fulcrum lever thingy. Hell, when I go out to eat, I spend most of the evening giving the wait-staff the side-eye because I'm insulted that they think I wouldn't know how to serve myself southwest egg rolls and cheap, shitty beer. Who needs a waiter? Just tell me where the Blue Moon is and I'll get it myself and save myself the tip. And fuck an orange slice, what kind of high-maintenance nancy do I look like?

But I digress. The point here is that one of the primary reasons why counseling is a stupid fucking profession is because it is so goddamned presumptuous. It presumes (number one) that the counselor is in some kind of position to help. It presumes (number two) that the client even needs to be helped. And it presumes (number three) that, even if we could truly determine if the clients do need help, that they even want it. 

All of this comes from Freud. When we talk about the influence of, say, Frank Parsons and Jane Adams, it's very clear that they were in a position to help and that their clientele needed and wanted the help. They worked with the homeless, the food-less, and the job-less. And the people who came to them needed and wanted places to live and food to eat and jobs to work. But with Freud, people were essentially just behaving in ways that other people thought were problematic and Freud thought he knew how to "fix" them.

So sometime in the late 1950s, early 1960s, some of the people in charge of things around the country began to realize that many of the people who received social work and career counseling services often also presented with behaviors that were... out of the norm. And these people in charge of things around the country thought about Freud and some of his disciples and descendants, and how it shouldn't only be people who could actually afford psychotherapy who needed it, but people who couldn't really afford it needed it too. And in 1963 they passed the Community Mental Health Centers Act of, well, 1963. Such an act established funding for community mental health centers, and basically the entire field of mental health counseling as we know it now was established. 

That's how we got a bunch of presumptuous, smug, self-satisfied dipshits running around trying to help everyone. The solution for all the people suffering from things we now call "depression" and "anxiety" and "psychosis" and "Mania" and whatever the hell else was to go talk to some stranger somewhere about what was agitating them so, and the simple act of talking about it would somehow fix it. And what does the therapist do during all of this talking? Basically, listen intently and then tell the client everything that is wrong with them and how they could go about making it better. 

But remember, people resent the people who help them. And if the person I'm talking about my problems with is some goofy. smug dipshit, why would I listen to anything that person has to say?

Most counselors are weird, too. Like, again, you have to be weird to want to be a counselor. You're either weird or your're a smug dipshit. Idiot assholes like me are few and far in between, thankfully. But it's a weird person who thinks they have any sort of authority to "help" other people in this manner, no? Why wouldn't they need help themselves? What makes them so special?

I struggled with these types of thoughts as I was studying to be a mental health counselor. My life certainly wasn't together. I certainly didn't have life figured out. I didn't know the answers to how to, say, stop people from being depressed. Hell, I myself have spent a bunch of my life depressed. I may even be depressed now, I don’t know. It’s hard to distinguish between depression and “normal” anymore. Maybe depression is normal. I find it funny when I read about depressed people going on anti-depressants and then they think they’re getting high on the drug, but the doctor says, “That’s just what normal people feel like.” But I think most normal people are depressed. And, on top of my doubts about the profession, I would feel guilty about being depressed in the first place. I’ve lived a charmed life in many ways, and so it’s with some shame and disappointment that I wonder why I’ve never really enjoyed much of it. There are millions, if not billions of people who have had a rougher go at things than I have and who are probably much happier than I am.

There was no way I could be the only one, either. There was no way I was the only counselor or soon-to-be counselor who couldn't figure out their own life, felt bad about not being able to figure out their life and somehow thought I was going to help others figure out their lives. In fact, there were probably lots and lots of counselors or soon-to-be counselors who were even worse off than I was, and yet....

And how were we going to "fix" all these people--who were/are probably resentful of us on some level because, if I get resentful for asking help for my car, imagine how resentful I am when I need to ask help fixing my life? We will fix them by having them talk to us.

That's it.

Talk to me. I will fix you. I won't get you a job. I won't get you food to eat. I won't give you a place sleep tonight. But talk to me about all that shit, and I'll fix you.

Like, I said, it's a stupid fucking profession.

But it doesn't have to be.

In fact, when done with any kind of skill and sensitivity, it's a great fucking profession with the potential to improve millions of lives.

I've seen it with my own eyes.

Dare I say, I've even done it myself on occasion.

I have helped others improve their lives substantially. And by working with the clients I have, they have improved my life substantially, as well.

However, to understand how and why sometimes counseling is the complete opposite of a stupid fucking profession, it's necessary to understand my philosophy of the practice of mental health counseling. And to understand my philosophy of the practice, it is necessary to understand me, and my experiences and how and why they have informed my philosophy of practice.

See, each client comes in with their own philosophies on life and their problems and whatever. And I listen, and I strive to understand, and only when I am able to see their subconscious incongruities between their philosophies and their actions, only then am I even on the verge of making change remotely possible.

Another old, goofy Daoist, Laozi, he (or she) who wrote the Daodejing, had a few good quotes that may be applicable to any current or prospective counselor. He (she?) wrote the following:

"To lead people, walk behind them." 

"Go to the people. Learn from them. Live with them. Start with what they know. Build with what they have. The best of leaders when the job is done, when the task is accomplished, the people will say we have done it ourselves." 

"Leadership is your ability to hide your panic from others." 

Laozi's antidote to being resented by the people you care about, is humility. And in order for me to make any sort of sense out of my profession, and my life, I must humble myself and admit I know absolutely nothing.

In short, you, the reader, are about to become my therapist, and I, your client, and maybe together we might figure out why counseling is not only a great profession, but a craft, when done right, that holds many secrets to improving one's life that can be applied by anyone, at any time, even if a counselor is not readily available at the moment.

To do all that--to realize all that-- we have to start at the beginning.....


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