Q & A with a Dr. Romance reader:

Q: I would like your advice and input. I have been working in business for 12 years as a CPA and have recently been quite  frustrated with it. Recently I did some career/interests/aptitude testing and found that the work I do now is pretty much what I am LEAST suited for! Lots of psychic energy spent being successful in this career.

A: Yes, I was an accountant for 15 years, so I understand. It didn't make me happy, either.

Q: One of the recommended areas for me was to become a therapist. I have asked for some input from my current therapist and wondered if you could share some ideas on the following also:

What do you like most about what you do?

A: I love people, and helping them change their lives. I also love the writing aspect of my career, which helps balance out the people contact. For example, in my book It Ends With You; Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction 
It Ends With You
 I show readers the therapy process involved in healing from past dysfunction, including exercises that work well with my clients.  Every therapist has to be creative on the spot, to come up with exercises, homework and explanations for struggling clients.  After doing this for a number of years, and finding out what works best for my clients, I can then put my best ideas and solutions in a book, to help more people than I can reach one on one.

I enjoy being self-employed, and having control over my schedule. Working out of my home is also great. My life feels all one piece, everything related, and I like that.

Q: What are the frustrations with it?

A: Dealing with Insurance!!! I refuse to do it now. Instead, I give my clients a "super bill" receipt, which they can turn in for reimbursement.  People who persist in self-destructive patterns, no matter what I tell them about change. No perks, no paid vacations, I pay for my own benefits.

Q: Where would you recommend training (I am on the west coast and have been looking into an M.A. at Pacifica in Santa Barbara)?

A: I have been licensed since 1978, so I'm out of touch with current schools.  The school I went to for my MA, The Lindenwood Colleges, is excellent, but it no longer has a branch in Southern  California. Check with the BBSE (see below) for their guidelines.

Q: How is it different from what you expected?

A: I thought I'd want to work with colleagues, but the staff meetings and other wastes of my time drove me crazy, not to mention worrying about others' ethics. So, I wound up working alone, and I love it.

Q: how do you deal with boundaries (i.e. being able to walk away at the end of the day and not take everyone's problems home with you)?

A: I think of each client's issues as attached to them. When they walk in the door, they bring their history with them, and it also leaves with them. If something bothers me, I talk to one of several colleagues for support and guidance. 

Q: What else do you think I should know before jumping in?

A: You won't learn much you need to know from school. You'll need a good cram course for state licensing test, and you need to choose your internship very carefully, because that's where you'll actually learn counseling. Start your internship ASAP, even if you have to do some sort of assistant or secretarial work for them. Get your feet wet counseling as soon as you can, and get into a clinician's training course. I learned so much from Rev. Denton Roberts, MFT. Watching him work, and working under his supervision was the greatest part of my training.  Pick a modality (such as: Gestalt, Client-Centered, Cognitive/behavioral, NLP, RET, Couples Therapy,) as soon as you can. You'll need to be grounded in one mode, and you can branch out from there.  It's a lifelong learning process, and in California, we're required to take 18 units of Continuing Education per year, as mandated by our licensing board, the California Board of Behavioral Science Examiners.

You'll also need somewhere to learn the business skills of running a practice, if you want to be self-employed. College doesn't teach you much of that, but you may already know it (as I did) from being an accountant.

Also, I strongly belive all therapists should be in their own individual therapy before getting licensed.  It's important to heal your own wounds and dysfunction for two reasons:  First, if you don't become aware of your own issues, they may cause you to make mistakes (therapists with unresolved grief have trouble helping grieving clients; unresolved dependency, sexual or money issues may lead a therapist to unethical behavior; of course, addiction of any kind is a disaster for a therapist.)    Second, it gives you an experience of what your client is going through at a given moment.  You get first hand how terrifying a major change in belief system can be; how much pain is involved in early memory, and how unbelievably liberating it is to resolve and heal old issues.  This is invaluable when working with clients, and is the root of empathy, which every good therapist needs.

Best of luck to you.

For low-cost counseling, email me at tina@tinatessina.com

Author's Bio: 

Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D. is a licensed psychotherapist in S. California since 1978 with over 30 years experience in counseling individuals and couples and author of 13 books in 17 languages, including It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction; The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again; Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting About the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage, The Commuter Marriage, and her newest, Love Styles: How to Celebrate Your Differences. She writes the “Dr. Romance” blog, and the “Happiness Tips from Tina” email newsletter.

Dr. Tessina, is CRO (Chief Romance Officer) for LoveForever.com, a website designed to strengthen relationships and guide couples through the various stages of their relationship with personalized tips, courses, and online couples counseling. Online, she’s known as “Dr. Romance” Dr. Tessina appears frequently on radio, and such TV shows as “Oprah”, “Larry King Live” and ABC News.