I have taught at an accredited graduate counseling program for more than ten years. When faculty members interview applicants, we observe the following personality traits:

You love people.

You don’t need to be a social butterfly to show that you love people. Your genuine care shows when you listen to another person talking. Your friends and family come to you for emotional comfort, and you sometimes find yourself listening to a stranger telling you his or her life struggles at a grocery store. You also enjoy watching people. In fact, you consider people watching at a mall or at an airport as one of your favorite activities.

Many people feel confused about the difference between a psychologist and a counselor. They both explore human beings’ inner experiences. A psychologist may explore human experiences through assessment instruments or a scientific deduction process, but a counselor explores human experience through talking and interacting with people. Your love for people is necessary if you want to become a professional counselor.

You are naturally inquisitive and self-reflective.

You are curious about life stories, and you always have follow up questions regarding people’s experience. That’s probably why people enjoy talking to you. You are interested in their experience, and your response to their story invites them to share more.

You are equally curious about your own life experience. You observe your own interaction with others. You wonder how you became who you are today, what and who influence your choices in life, and why. This life is a mystery, and you enjoy the process of discovering it.

Being curious and having a keen eye to recognize missing puzzles in a story help both you and the storyteller to unfold possibilities and potentials for the existing story. The more you reflect and observe your own human experience, the more you can recognize missing puzzles in others’ experience. If you enjoy this process, you can potentially be a good counselor.

Helping others bring joys to you.

You are happy to provide help for other people without being recognized or praised for your good deeds.  In addition, you are not emotionally attached to the outcome of your efforts. The act itself gives you a sense of fulfillment.

Two years ago on a snowy evening, I crashed my car on highway I-35. A man kindly pulled over to the roadside and stood in the cold for 30 minutes with me while I waited for the police to come. He told me that he would not want his daughter or wife to stand in a dark cold night by herself after a car crash. I was in an emotional shock after the crash. I didn’t ask for his name, and I can’t remember his face now. But his kindness lifted my spirit at the moment and became an anchoring memory for me. Whenever I had to face another “dark night” by myself, I remember his kindness and know that I’ll be okay. This man’s act of kindness brought light to darkness. It provided a deep healing effect to the receiver. This type of non-self-serving kindness is the cord of the counseling profession.

You are optimistic.

You have the ability to see hope in hopeless situation. Life can be difficult and challenging at times. You do not deny how bad a situation is, but you never lose faith. There is always a part of you that believes everything will eventually be okay. In the mean time, you are willing to try new ways to cope with difficult situations. Your willingness to recognize the struggles makes your optimism even more powerful. Your family and friends feel encouraged by talking to you. Your faith in life processes help you and other people move forward in difficult situations.

Many friends asked me, “How do you listen to people’s life struggles every day and not feel depressed?” I believe people who are sitting in a counseling room with me are ready to create better days in their lives. I’m honored to support their courage and efforts in changing their lives. What I’ve learn is that better days in life may not happen as quickly as we want, but they always come.  My job is to keep up hope for people when they can’t.

You are compliant with expected rules and boundaries.

You understand the purpose of rules and boundaries is to protect human relationship. If a rule is not serving human relationships well anymore, you will work with others to change it. But as long as the rule is still in place, you have the self-discipline to follow it.

Many people are aware that clients’ sharing in counseling is protected by confidentiality rules. In order to really help people, a professional counselor needs to understand and be compliant with the expected rules and boundaries.

If you see some of these personality traits in yourself, you have potential to be a great professional counselor! We invite you to visit our website to learn about UMHB’s Graduate Counseling program.