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Ramon Presson: Could Dr. Phil really help Mr. Darcy?

At an age when most of my friends and classmates hadn’t given much thought yet to where they were going to college I already had college, grad school, and my career path all figured out. I knew as a sophomore in high school that I wanted to be a counselor. Seriously, what other kid have you ever met with his own subscription to Psychology Today magazine? 
I was always a good athlete and I played numerous sports but at an early age I was especially attentive to the competitions inside of me and was intrigued by the games of human relationships which all seemed to have some subjective unwritten rule book.
I’ve been a marriage and family therapist now for more than 25 years and have not my lost my deep care for people or my fascination about relationships. Our internal and interpersonal worlds are to me vast galaxies I will never grow weary of exploring. 
People often ask me what it’s like to be a counselor, frequently tagged with “I don’t know how you stand it – listening to people’s problems all day.” Those of us who feel called to this profession of listening, caring and guiding are not weighed down by the hurts and crises of others, even though we join with others to help carry their burdens. It is an honor and a privilege to be trusted with someone’s story, invited in to speak to their concerns and hopes, and walk with them toward healing and growth. 
But I would have you know that while counselors and others in helping professions take their work very seriously, the wisest and healthiest counselors do not take themselves too seriously. With that in mind I offer the following list to my professional peers and to those of you who may be considering a career in counseling.
Yes, you know you’re a counselor when…
… there's something about you that compels your Olive Garden waitress to share her entire life story before you even get breadsticks.
… your concept of heaven is an eternal place of bliss where there are no case notes or insurance forms. Actually there are no insurance companies either because they are in … well, never mind.
… you overhear a lay person use a psychological term loosely in a sentence and it bothers you so badly you fight the urge to correct them. Example: “Oh my gosh, Leslie was being so bi-polar yesterday.” 
… to get any rest on an airplane you never tell your seat mate that you're a counselor. 
… your waitress smiles and replies “I’m fine, thank you,” and you fight the urge to say, “Are you, really?”
… you see the terms “irrational numbers” or “distressed furniture” and your first thought is, “I can help them!”
… you critique the style and methodology of every counselor, therapist, or psychiatrist you ever see being played in movies and TV shows. 
… you watch “Pride and Prejudice,” and one of your first thoughts early in the film is “Mr. Darcy needs to be on about 60mg of Cymbalta.”
… your friend calls at the last minute and has to cancel the plans to meet for lunch; and you start to remind her of your cancellation policy.
… you’re standing in the self-help section of the bookstore and you fight the urge to recommend a different title to a customer flipping through a Dr. Phil book.
… you can quickly spot all the couples in a restaurant who are having issues.
… you use the word “boundaries” even in casual conversations.
… someone asks you for the name of your hairstylist and your first thought is “Release of Information Form.”
… you read advice columns to critique the columnist.
… during coffee a friend leans in and asks if you can keep a secret and you recite to her the guidelines and limits of confidentiality. 
… you can’t remember how many years you’ve been married but you know how many Continuing Education Units you still need this year.
… when a cop pulls you over and asks to see your license you tell him it’s framed in your office.
… you hate cocktail parties because mingling and keeping all conversations to a superficial level is almost painful for you.
… you win a game of Scrabble by placing the word “Xanax” on the exact spaces to achieve triple letter and triple word scores.
Author and therapist, Dr. Ramon Presson, is the founder of LifeChange Counseling and the Marriage Center of Franklin, Tenn. He can be reached at

Posted on: 6/21/2013


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