I do not believe that empathy can be taught, it can be developed but you have to have "it" - it is innate. So empathy either is or it isn't. Skills, for the most part, can be taught. But you need some sort of a natural framework. Like you come with the basic internal foundation from which skills can be learned.
Now then, can a therapist be made? Sort of. If one has empathy and the ability to hone the skills, then yeah, you can. If they don't have empathy? I think it is a disservice to clients. I believe that being a counselor is a vocation - in the sense that it is a calling. That is why I think that the born argument is significant for counselors.
So where do I fall into this? I have always believed that I am meant to be a helper, particularly with youth. A therapist? I don't know. A counselor of some sort? Yes. Lately I have been convinced that while I think I came pre-made in the empathy department - I was seriously concerned about my skills. Can I do this? Nothing in my role plays really says I can. And I began to believe that I am trying to make myself into a therapist. It made me sad. How could I have been such a fool?
Then in a conversation I had on Wednesday it was brought to my attention that I am basing this on very false situations. Role plays in a class are not the same as real life counseling. When have I been the happiest? In working with youth and often as some form of a counselor or mentor. There is nothing that has made me happier career wise. Even when I worked in the crisis center and it was violent or messy in many ways I came back because I believed that I could connect with those kids and that being there with them was such a privilege that I needed to do it and that I was good at it. And I loved it - well, a lot of it. Talks with kids there stand out as some of the most meaningful moments in my life.
Then today, the final day of our Advanced Family Therapy class, I was doing my final role play and it clicked. I definitely missed a lot and when my professor came in she showed some profound areas in which I was lacking (she did not point them out, she role played for us and I saw them) but for a little bit there I felt natural. I felt okay in my own skin. Even as I fumbled through some techniques. I felt like I had skills!!
At the close of class my professor said that she hoped we knew that these role plays are not really examples of how we are as therapists - and that this is why she cannot grade us on them (an opinion not shared by other professors apparently). She also said that this is a time for being befuddled. While you are in a role play it is when you are getting the imprint. The imprint of a model or a theory or of some of the process. Learning how to mirror what you hear.
So, am I a therapist? Or a counselor? I still don't know. To be a good therapist, you have to be a counselor. But you can counsel in different ways. Career wise, to be a counselor is a different job where you aren't really doing therapy.
On that note, I need to decide what I am doing soon. I go back and forth on switching my programs still from school counseling to MFT. Much has to do with the job market, much has to do with my family therapy class. It is the class I have found hope in.
It is also where I found some sadness because every MFT student that I have come to know even in the slightest way is going onto internship next year. No more classes with them. It makes me really sad. In large part because I am supposed to be with them. And if I were there would be no crisis. If I had already been in all of the classes there is no way I would have even considered switching programs.
I apparently beg existential crises to come my way. Well, whether or not that is true what is learned today is that there is hope for me. I needed that hope.