What a great question! I have a Masters in Social Work (and public health) and worked as a community organizer with homeless people who have mental illness for four years. While not QUITE counseling, I left the field because:
- I found that I didn't have good work/life boundaries, which meant I couldn't "turn off" work when I was done. As a result, I was thinking about my "clients" all the time and was never able to recharge after intense days and I became burnt out.
- I left graduate school with significant student loans. The pay in my chosen field was not sufficient to let me begin to pursue the financial goals I had after leaving graduate school.
My advice for people interested in the field is to:
- Make sure you have good supervision performed by a professional counseling supervisor who can help you process the intense work you are doing so you can (a) understand it, and (b) leave it at work. "Supervision" is a process required in many counseling careers - where you are essentially receiving counseling and management support from someone senior to you - focused almost entirely on you as a professional counselor. It is pretty cool!
- Develop habits to help you separate work from life. As I've become older, I've been able to do this better. For example, my sweetheart and I try to take a walk when we're done with work. This helps us connect with each other and create a boundary between the work part of our days and the rest of our lives.