I should probably make something clear right now. I am a twenty-one year old college student. I am neither a social worker nor a life coach. The only semi-formal counseling training I have is with Safe Zone, which is an organization at my school aimed toward making university life safer and more comfortable for LGBTQIA students (yes, this type of thing is necessary, and I will go into more detail in another post). I am not a licensed counsellor. In fact, I only hold two licenses: one to drive a car, and one that was issued by the Red Cross about ten years ago that states that I am a certified babysitter. And yet, despite my lack of licenses, credentials, and degrees, people seem to think that I am a therapist.
This has been going on since elementary school. I remember the first incident pretty well. One of my classmates had a fight with his friend, and for some reason decided to vent about it to me on the playground. I advised him to make up with his friend, because one little fight shouldn’t compromise a lifelong friendship. He did just that, and pretty soon, other kids were coming to me to talk about their problems. I actually considered taking a page out of Lucy van Pelt’s book and knocking together a “Psychiatric Help” booth before realizing that such a project would take up too much time and lumber that I was prepared to sacrifice.
Going forward into my teen years and young adult life, a week doesn’t go by without someone coming to me and talking my ear off about the myriad issues in their life. Apparently my mother faces the same problem; people come into her store to buy natural French soap and cooking classes, and all of a sudden, she becomes the town’s bartender. Sometimes the problems that people tell me are relatively benign – they’re stressed about school, they got into a fight with their roommate, etc, etc. But of course, there are the other times where I want to stop them and tell them to go see a therapist. An actual therapist. One that has been properly trained to give advice and possibly prescribe medication.
The most I can do in these cases is to tell them that everything will be okay, it will all work out, que sera sera. Of course, I have no idea if what I tell them is true, and I’m sure that in some cases, everything will not be okay and their lives will come completely undone. But in all my years as a professional quasi-shrink, I have found that in most cases, the people who vent to me aren’t actually looking for any sort of viable advice; they just want to talk to someone. Anyone. They’re looking for some sort of human connection, no matter how fleeting. Sometimes they want to unload all of their uncomfortable thoughts and feelings to an actual person instead of faceless strangers on the Internet. Sometimes, they just want someone to tell them that it will be okay.
Whatever their motivation is for treating me as their therapist is perfectly valid. And as long as they don’t start asking me to take their insurance, I really don’t mind listening.