“We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.” — Winston Churchill

Commitment, engagement and dedication. These qualities are inherent in professional counselors. While we may not always receive “full” financial compensation for these qualities, we are often “paid in full” with the satisfaction of knowing that we have helped to make a positive difference in someone’s life.

Being a professional counselor requires an in-depth awareness of and concern for the human condition. These job responsibilities serve as the fuel for what I consider to be professional longevity. There are certainly moments when we learn something new from working with our clients and our students. But our desire to help others also leads us to seek out skill enhancement, training and further formal education. This skill development results in our becoming better counselors and counselor educators, which in turn means we are able to practice or to teach for a greater length of time and to impact more lives.

Our reasons for having chosen the counseling profession vary. Whether your decision to become a professional counselor or counselor educator was based on a desire to address emerging social issues, cultural trends or the malaise brought on by societal pressures, please know that you really are making a difference.

Many years ago, as I embarked on selecting a profession, I knew that I wanted to make an impact on people’s lives. In essence, I thought about my beliefs, values, interests, personality, passion and personal history. I also considered the societal environment of the time and researched professions from the perspectives of salary, required training, work environment, job market availability and advancement opportunities. It became clear to me that being a professional counselor would meet both my needs and my desires for what I wanted to do with my life.

Why did you choose this profession? What still excites you about your professional work? I asked two members of the American Counseling Association to share their thoughts

Thomas Parham

My initiation into the helping profession was born in my spirit years before I would ever see my first client. In me was a passion to make a difference in the lives of others, and the professions of psychology and counseling were the vehicles through which I could realize that promise. In my first year of college, criminology was a direction I pursued. However, once I realized that the criminal justice system was less about helping folks and more about who manipulated the system best, it was clear that I needed to find a different profession.

Fortunately, internships at a local halfway house and community psychology clinic provided me with occasions to impact the lives of young people and also receive valuable feedback from supervisors and parents that I had the potential to make a real difference. I hope that I have done that in my professional endeavors. As I think about what continues to excite me about my profession, I know that it is the ability to contribute to the transformative possibilities of the human spirit and human condition.

Daya Sandhu

I entered the field of professional counseling not by choice but by chance. In order to continue my job as the director of the Intensive Residential Guidance Program with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, I was required to earn a degree in counseling. Therefore, I switched my major from English literature to guidance and counseling. It proved to be a blessed change. New vistas and exciting opportunities were opened, which I have thoroughly enjoyed since 1982.

I find my professional work quite fascinating, exciting and richly rewarding, both personally and professionally. Self-actualization, service to others and spiritual awakening have become three major themes of my life that can be directly attributed to my training as a professional counselor. In the face of many adversities and tragedies, challenges and life-wrenching experiences, counseling has been the source of strength that has helped me not only to survive but also to prevail. I strongly believe that it is through counseling that my inner pain was crystallized into spiritual yearning. I developed a renewed sense of commitment to help others, and my professional work became a labor of love.

I summarize my commitment to the profession of counseling in two key words: “passion” and “compassion.” I believe that my passion is created by personal life experiences, while compassion has been caused by witnessing the afflictions of others. The former demands expression, which inspired me to write, and the latter has become the mission of my life to help others. The field of professional counseling has really guided me to develop innovative insights and understand myriad meanings of my clients’ difficulties. It has also offered me the much-needed and valued synergy in my own personal, interpersonal and transpersonal life.


There is no shortage of professionals in counseling who desire to work to make a difference and love doing just that! Thank you for your commitment, engagement and dedication.

I look forward to hearing from you and hope you will feel free to communicate with me either via e-mail at mawakefield@cox.net or by calling 800.347.6647 ext. 232.