Like Tammy and Natalie, one of the goals I'm most proud of is graduating with my Master's degree. My story, however, is a little bit different. My high school was very small, and didn't even offer psychology class, so I had no idea about the world of psychology and therapy when I went into my undergraduate studies. One of my best friends, who was a few years older than I, had started college before me. The year she declared her major (Psychology), I was visiting her and picked up one of her psychology textbooks-- I was instantly intrigued. I actually enjoyed reading it!! I had always been interested in what makes people "tick", but I knew from that moment what I wanted my area of study to be. Unfortunately, I didn't do my research before undergrad, because I had no idea how limiting a psychology degree would be for my passion of the field. In the two year period following graduation from my Bachelors, I tried a couple of different areas to work in, but still felt as though I wasn't fulfilling my true purpose. The idea of Graduate school was very scary to me, however, I love to learn, and began the application process for the Master of Science degree in Counseling. Part of the application process in getting accepted into the program was to do an interview with the department "board". This included both professors, the department chair, as well as current students in the program. My anxiety was overwhelming that day, and I was not at all prepared for what was in store for me! My idea of Graduate school, as well as becoming a therapist (at that time) was to learn how to help OTHER people. When I got into the interview, it was my first experience with identifying and being able to name the personal issues in MY own life I needed to work on, that would later be part of the process of me being able to help others. Having a big group of people sitting around a table staring at me while I answered their questions about my family growing up, my struggles, my relationships, as well as the strengths and weaknesses I would bring to the field, was completely overwhelming. I had no idea the interview was going to be so personal and revealing about my own issues! I thought they would want to know how I thought I could help others! I answered their questions from my heart, with genuineness and transparency, but by the time I left the interview, I had almost talked myself out of wanting to be a therapist (what I would later learn as my shame issues, fear of rejection, as well as a tad bit of perfectionism!). I thought for sure I had bombed the interview (much less the essay and other requirements to get into the program). The good thing about this is I knew in my heart what I really wanted to do. I couldn't lie to myself, and realized that if this was my calling, I couldn't allow those feelings to hold me back. When the acceptance letter came, I was thrilled!
Getting into the program was one thing, but the work during the program was the most eye-opening, monumental period of growth for me in my life to that point. I was challenged with my own issues of perfectionism and shame during many points during those years, and I wouldn't change it for the world. It has helped me become the therapist I am, and a healthier person as well, which helps my work with clients every day. How I did it: Not allowing my internal thoughts and fears of rejection and shame to control my actions. Even during the tears and times I wondered how I would make it through, I persisted towards something that was VERY important to me. Usually, what I found was that my biggest fears and destructive thoughts were never true to the outcome (I graduated with honors). If I would have given into my fears, I easily could have quit the program (luckily, I have a great support system to help challenge me, too!). What I learned: Pain and fear can be a wonderful opportunity for growth if we embrace it!
Joleen Watson, MS, NCC, is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. She enjoys doing marriage counseling, relationship counseling, couples counseling, and individual counseling. Imagine Hope also specializes in family, child and adolescent counseling and serves Indianapolis area including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Noblesville, Zionsville, Westfield, and Fishers.