I have to be fair to my fellow students. We’re in our first semester of the program, not all have psychology backgrounds, and a couple are still technically undergrads. The university provides the option for senior undergrad psych students to take some beginning grad school counseling classes for credit if they’re planning to enter that program upon graduation. I think we have a course on diagnosis and mental illness later on. They’ll learn. If not, I’m with Alecya- I wouldn’t want them as my counselor.
Most of the counseling program is geared toward people who want to work with everyday sorts of problems, not people with mental illness. They will, of course, have clients who struggle with one, but that won’t be their main focus. If this is how they will be, I’m glad of that. Our professors say working with people who have mental illness is more the province of psychologists. My therapist disagrees. After all, how are you going to know, to weed out those with or without, until you start working with your clients? And then you have an ethical obligation to continue to help them until you’ve exhausted all other options and just can’t do it. Then and only then do you refer, also an ethical obligation.
If I am able to go into corrections counseling, I can be certain that at least a few of my clients will be living with some form of mental illness. A lot of offenders have a diagnosis. I think my own problems will make me a better counselor for that population. At any rate, I hope so.