Things I Didn't Learn at Uni


Hey. Nice degree you have there. You must have worked pretty hard for that. And now you're READY to go change some lives... right?

When I went into my first real job as a Rehabilitation Counsellor, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what was in store for me. Of course I was uncertain about the future and the exact kind of work that I would be doing, but mostly I felt assured that I understood what it takes to help someone deal with injury, illness or trauma:

Early intervention!


Proactive management of the Rehabilitation process!

Acknowledgement of complex Bio-psycho-social issues!


A multidisciplinary approach to Recovery!

Fast forward to my first day on the job:

More accurately, the first week was awesome. I introduced myself to all of my clients, took thorough notes and logged my time diligently. I was all over it.

But then by week two, things started to unfold.

I realised that all of these things I had learned really hadn't prepared me for what it was like to have a real human in front of me. A complex person with real issues, frustrated and sometimes sick to the point of tears or anger.

A person who expects me to help them but at the same time thinks I might be full of it because everyone else said they would help but they didn't.

And that sweet little assessment proforma you had - the one for an initial interview or vocational assessment?

Clients don't care about your proforma. They care about feeling heard and telling their story, which doesn't exactly fit under all of those subheadings you have. Or sometimes they don't want to tell their story because you're the fourth person they've had to do this stupid initial meeting with.

Sometimes, (most of the time) people will have no idea what a Rehabilitation Counsellor can do. They might think that you're there to cure them - and they might tell you that there's no point bothering because they've already tried everything.

Sometimes, you don't get a chance to intervene early because a client has been stuck in the system for years. Sometimes by the time a client gets to you, everyone in their life will have told them that change isn't possible.

Sometimes, you have to wear about 50 hats. Salesperson. Mediator. Triage. Advocate. Admin. Accounts. Clinician. Report Writer. Coach. Cheerleader. Motivational Speaker. Investigator. Confidant. Puzzle Solver. Diplomat. Tightrope Walker. Thought Leader.

Sometimes, you won't get to help someone to the best of your ability due to funding constraints. That part really sucks. And you should get mad at the system. Because if we don't speak up then it's not going to change.


Sometimes, one conversation is enough to inspire change.

Sometimes, your client will tell you that it was because of youthat they had the confidence to try something new.

Sometimes, your clients will amaze you with their tenacity. Be prepared to learn from them. They will achieve things that make you proud to call yourself a Rehabilitation Counsellor.

Sometimes, you will get the opportunity to work with brilliant health professionals who are committed to making good things happen. You will learn so much from them, too.

Sometimes, you will be given the freedom to do the good work with a client that you know they deserve.

Sometimes, people will see the real value of rehabilitation. (But most of the time, you need to remind them. Don't be afraid to do this.)

Sometimes, you have to accept that you have no idea what you're doing and that's OK.

What isn't OK is forgetting to be curious (or not asking for help!)

It's OK to accept that you're learning as long as you're committed to just being present and open with every client you see.

Stay diligent about this. The rest will come.

P.S. it helps to practice a 30 second spiel about what a Rehab Counsellor actually can do. This post might help.


Feature image by Southern Arkansas University is licensed under CC by 2.0

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