Why Do You Help?

Everyone who helps people has one.  I know that many of us have struggled with feeling pigeon-holed into picking one as we worked on our Masters Degrees in Counseling.  Or perhaps you were like me and thought theory was boring and impractical.  But what I’ve learned through my work as a professional counselor and trainer/coach over the last several years is that the way I treat all of my clients and students is similar – and it all passes through the lens of my counseling theory.

The way I treat my clients is a direct and indirect result of the combination of my training experiences, my personal values, and the way I think people get better.  My worldview, the way I think about people and culture, and my own personal experiences, abuses, and triumphs shape my practice.  This is true – I believe – for anyone providing therapy or other helping services.

I think case managers operate from a theoretical perspective.  I think police officers, probation officers, nurses, hair stylists, bartenders, flight attendants, and physicians all operate from a theory of helping. Customer service professionals, too.  Most helpers don’t think about their work in this way, either because no one told them they should.  Or perhaps, like most people, they are too busy doing the work to think about it.

But there is great value in understanding the framework from which we help.

For one, I believe that someone who helps others needs to understand their motivation.  I ask my students to write down five words or less that describes why they chose to work in the helping professions.  It’s valuable to remember what caused you to join the ranks because there are a lot of tough days for those of us devoted to serving others.  Most of the responses center on things like offering hope, empowering others, or promoting health change.

The most memorable one, though, was when someone said, “Because it was me.”  

What did that phrase tell us about that particular person’s framework of helping?  Do you think their experiences as a person in need of help has informed the way they help others?   The reason we choose to be helpers is just one of the building blocks in developing our theoretical orientation.

So . . .why do you help?

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