Professional identity development is another important component of graduate counseling study. You may notice that the students enrolled in your program will have undergraduate backgrounds in psychology, social work, criminal justice, education, or multiple other disciplines. Although there is overlap between different helping professions, counseling is a distinct discipline of its own and should be recognized as such. In order to affirm this differentiation among the general public, increase access of care, and strengthen our profession as a whole, it is important for students to establish a strong counselor identity. A strong counselor identity will serve as the foundation of your professional development.
Your experience as a counselor-in-training is also an important time for you to discover your own personal identity as a professional counselor. What is your style as a counselor? Is there a specific population you would like to work with, or a preferred setting you desire to work in? What is your theoretical orientation, and which therapeutic modalities would you like to utilize in practice? Students often find these questions challenging to answer initially, but identifying your personal counseling preferences is a process and you will have many available resources to assist you with determining a best fit. Consulting with professors, seeking guidance from your peers, and meeting with local counselors can provide you with additional clarification during this exploration process.