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Burnt out Counseling Grad Student...Need Advice

Discussion in 'Psychology [Psy.D. / Ph.D.]' started by Wolffy0917, Apr 10, 2012.

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  1. Wolffy0917

    Wolffy0917

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    Psychology Student

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    Hi everyone. I'm very new to this forum, but I'm hoping people in a similar situation/field will have some advice for me. I'm almost finished with my second year of my MA in Counseling & Community Psych. It's a 3 year program, full time. My problem is I am not happy with my program and can't even bring myself to care to do the work anymore. In order to finish by next May, I have to attend full time this summer, fall, and spring with my internship starting in the fall and lasting until next May. I also don't even know if Counseling is the field I wish to pursue anymore. I have a BA in Criminology and I've always been the type of person who would like to do many different things with a career and not just focus on one thing. I'm at a private school and have accrued quite a bit of debt from the program and I hate to throw it all away, but I'm really struggling and burnt out. I have a strong support system, but at the the same time I have a mother who always tells me to do what makes me happy no matter what that is and a father who is very logical minded and wants me to make the best decision financially. There are other routes I'd like to take, but I guess I'm afraid of making the wrong decision and disappointing not only myself, but my family as well. Any advice or suggestions anyone has will be greatly appreciated. I just want to get out of this rut and be happy again instead of miserable. :confused:
  2. Vasa Lisa

    Vasa Lisa

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    SDN 2+ Year Member
    Wolffy - I hear you!

    I started part time in my program and then went full time and right before I finished - I hit the proverbial wall. I was sure that I was just done, done, done. For me it was about a mismatch between me and the program and I hadn't done any of my clinical placements yet. I was really sick of counseling my fellow students and sick of being taped and critiqued and tweaked. I was tired of writing papers and tired of being a student.

    I was so disenchanted I took the summer off school. Volunteered in my community with REAL people in REAL situations - not academic scenarios. I then took a long three week trip with my family and let my idea of myself as a counselor die. I was ready to walk away from the whole thing.

    After that period of intense time away from school, I returned in the fall and began my first practicum. I LOVED it! Loved the supervisor, loved the placement, loved my clients, loved the work. I felt so energized. I saw 8 - 10 clients per week in my various placements the final four semesters of my program and had excellent clinical supervision. I found that the "academics" could only take me so far. It was the clinical folks in my placements who became my mentors and support system and I blossomed.

    Are you able to identify what you are burned out about? Is it a "this too shall pass" issue? It it a "it is what it is" issue? Can you take a break without throwing it all away?

    What is the best outcome if you quit?
    What is the best outcome if you tough it out?

    Grad school is tough - and happiness wasn't much of a traveling companion until I entered my clinical placements. Even then, I was often feeling in over my head and uncertain - even as I loved the work.

    A degree is a degree... and once you finish, you can do anything you want. My prior graduate work is totally unrelated to my current work and that prior MS was totally unrelated to several satisfying jobs that made it possible for me to quit and go back to school and become a therapist.

    What is making you miserable right now?

    And where in your life are there glimmers of contentment?

    VL
  3. Wolffy0917

    Wolffy0917

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    Vasa Lisa- Thank you for sharing your experience. It's nice to know that others can relate to how I'm feeling. I, too, feel as though it is a mismatch between me and the program. We haven't done any clinical work in the two years I've been here outside of the classroom. While I would start practicum this summer, I'm not sure it would be fair to the clients I would serve in this current state of mind. I would like to take some time off, but then it throws me off the "cohort" and I'd have to extend the amount of time I spend in the program by ANOTHER year. But at the same time, it might be the better option right now to even determine if I want to finish.

    What is burning me out is the workload. While I knew it was going to be a lot going into it, I'm TIRED of writing literature reviews and want to start my career and make money instead of getting in more and more debt.

    I've always been interested in working in a federal law enforcement setting, combining my criminal justice degree with psychology. I've recently applied to a few jobs that could eventually take me there and that in itself has given me hope and excitement, but it would also mean completely uprooting my life (moving out of state and putting my degree on hold), but that also gives me a sense of excitement. I've been the happiest visiting my friends and my mom out of state where I've been applying to those law enforcement jobs, but I feel very stuck in my current situation with a lack of control.

    The best outcome if I quit is a sense of relief and an ability to focus on what really makes me happy, what I really want, and a commitment to job hunting. The best outcome if I tough it, I'll have a Masters degree and hope to get a job in the field that pays well enough to pay my loans.

    Again, I really appreciate your comments and experiences!
  4. Rivi

    Rivi

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    SDN 5+ Year Member
    Yes, I have struggled with this career indecision BIG TIME in the past and I currently do as well (Med school vs. Ph.D. vs. military vs. Law enforcement vs. small business). I sometimes think life would be easier if the decision was made for you and you were just forced to deal with it, as opposed to constantly wondering if this is the best choice, etc. I came to the realization that each path has it's own pro's and con's, and the path itself doesn't bring fulfillment, rather your own outlook, approach, and commitment to yourself outside of work. I think you have more flexibility to jump around than you think. You can always work part-time as a counselor in private practice, while pursuing other avenues.
  5. Wolffy0917

    Wolffy0917

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    I completely agree. Wish someone could just play God for me! Ha I usually try and weigh the pros and cons in these situations, but lately school seems to be losing the battle. My feelings are school will always be there and a job opportunity may not...
  6. Vasa Lisa

    Vasa Lisa

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    Breathe....

    And remember - both / and not either / or...

    Having had many different careers and many different jobs and many different degrees I do know there are many opportunities for course corrections no matter what decisions we make. There will always be opportunities. We may not always notice them, but they will be there.

    Have you thought about consulting a mental health professional? An LPC? or an LCSW? or a clinical psychologist? Seriously! It could be quite illuminating :)

    VL
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2012
  7. zensouth

    zensouth

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    There is never one best choice. There are always multiple best choices. It can be difficult to commit to one thing. Then again, as Vasa Lisa points out, committing to one thing is never final either. Sometimes the excitement/hopefulness that comes with unfulfilled potential outcomes appears more alluring than one's current reality. Beware! These are like the songs of the Sirens, temping but ultimately leading to dead ends. (yeah, I worked in an Odyssey reference).

    Life is like a game show where you get to choose between mystery boxes, but then never find out what's in the box you didn't pick. You can't go back, but you can always move forward or change course.

    If it is any help, the days of thinking that someone just picks a career and sticks with it are over. I forget the exact figures, but I want to say that the average working adult under 50 has held something like 6 different jobs. Heck, I still use skills I learned working at a fast-food restaurant during high school. Every experience comes back to help you.

    And yes, talking to an LPC or other professional will definitely help. And yes, THIS IS NORMAL. ;)
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2012
  8. Wolffy0917

    Wolffy0917

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    Very well said. Thank you very much and I'm definitely considering talking to a professional (if I can find the time!)
  9. marcellomj

    marcellomj

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    May 21, 2012
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    Pity you realized that after almost two years of studying, but my advice is it is never too late to change and be happy and I am sure age is still on your side.remember a career is a lifetime thing so I think losing two years in favor of lifetime satisfaction and happiness is more important, your parents will understand if they care about your happiness.

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