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Use Criticism as Fuel for Your Counseling Career
Use Criticism as Fuel for Your Counseling Career

Use Criticism as Fuel for Your Counseling Career

 Will I ever pass the licensure exam?

 I can’t do anything right!

 Will I ever be good enough?

Do any of these statements sound familiar?

Whether it be a failed counseling licensure exam or constructive feedback from colleagues and clients, becoming a counselor comes with plenty of criticism, which can be discouraging. Although criticism is inevitable for growth, you have a choice. You can let the process of criticism stop you from improving or you can let it propel you forward.

In Counseling Today’s article, “Helping the Helpers,” assistant professors Jennifer M. Cook, of Marquette University, and Pamela C. Wells of Georgia Southern University, describe the process of handling criticism on the path to becoming a counselor. They believe that a strength-based perspective can help counseling students and professionals alike.

In their time teaching aspiring counselors, Cook and Wells found that their students often felt like they couldn’t do anything right.

During this time, counselors-in-training and new professionals are generally receiving constructive critical feedback from faculty members, supervisors and peers. Although this process is imperative for a counselor’s growth and development, taking in a great deal of critical feedback can cause people to feel unmoored and experience self-doubt. They find themselves thinking, “I can’t do anything right!”

On top of feeling like they can’t do anything right, “counselors-in-training and new professionals may also struggle with a lack of support or a perceived lack of support.”

How do you overcome the feeling of not being able to do anything right, especially when you sense a lack of support?

The strength-based perspective is inspired by the belief that people are stronger and more resilient than they give themselves credit for. It’s about understanding yourself and seeing your strengths instead of only seeing your faults. It’s equipment to handle criticism.

Balance is key to letting criticism push you forward. While pessimism has you dwelling in the criticism, being overly optimistic has you ignoring it. The strength-based perspective is not about being optimistic or pessimistic but, rather, it’s about being realistic. Instead of focusing on your faults, it is more effective to acknowledge what your positive attributes and strengths are and reframe your experience through that lens. Rather than ignoring what went wrong—or, on the other hand, dwelling in what went wrong—growing from your strengths requires you to include both the good and the improvable.

Say, for example, you get a negative review from a client. To let the criticism push you forward, you would use a strength-based perspective to realistically reflect on your experience with this client. Instead of completely ignoring it and moving on, you would acknowledge what went well and what did not. From there you would either let go of what you cannot control or you would improve next time.

Or, say you failed your first attempt at a counseling licensure exam. You have three options. The first is to let optimism get the best of you by retaking the test without exploring how you can improve. The second is to let pessimism get the best of you by dwelling in the failure and giving up. And the third is to let the failure fuel your future success by identifying your strengths and then acknowledging what went wrong. If you need help moving forward after a failed licensure exam, give us a call. Our team can help guide you along the best path for you.

A strength-based perspective begins with knowing yourself. What strengths and abilities do you naturally fall back on? What activities give you energy and which ones drain you? Knowing yourself will give you a solid ground to explore criticism and use it for fuel. Cook and Wells say:

A strength-based perspective encourages you to keep moving forward and to keep growing, even when it seems “too hard” or “not worth it.” You possess strengths and gifts that are seen every day by the people you serve. Why not take the chance to see yourself through their eyes, and then use those qualities to bolster the ways you want to grow? You might be surprised by who you see emerge in the process.

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