When a person plans to become ordained in the Episcopal Church, he or she must first obtain the support of a parish. They then enter what is called the “discernment process” with the full backing of a community. I sometimes wish graduate school for counseling had a similar system, so that in the overwhelmed moments of doubt, I could step forward with the knowledge that there is a group of people who think I am not only qualified for pursuing the education, but that I am suited for the job and am on the right path.
I had my first clients at my practicum site a few weeks ago. It was a wonderful and overwhelming experience, and when I returned home I found I did not know how to process it and my usual confidants were not available to me fully (due to confidentiality) and also did not understand the context of my emotions. So I called my classmate, who was able to relate to my experience of nerves, excitement and accomplishment, and who made me feel less alone in my first experience as a “real” counselor. When I hung up I realized that I do, in fact, have a community backing me up in this process… my classmates, my professors, my supervisors, my fellow counselors. We are supporting each other and receiving support as we realize our lack of competence in some areas, our unexpected preparedness in others, and the ways we are developing as professionals.