The long and perilous road to becoming a licensed professional counselor has been a questionable decision for many clinicians when the unexpected stressors of the profession become a daily reality. My mid-life career switch has been both personally gratifying but also financially devastating.

The pay is minimum wage, the paperwork is endless and not reimbursable (aka “done off the clock”), and the expense of obtaining a master’s degree and countless other required post-graduate courses are an unexpected financial outlay. Also, there are the required 1,800 clinical hours of face-to-face client contact, the years of supervision, not to mention the unexpected dangers of interacting with the mentally ill.

Now a new challenge can be added to the gamut of stressors for this profession. The potential of being shot by police, while assisting a problematic client, has become a new and surprising threat.

Recent police shootings of unarmed civilians have been of questionable necessity in such cities as Cleveland, Baltimore, Baton Rouge, Minneapolis and Atlanta, just to name a few. The justification for these officers’ actions has caused ongoing civil strife in many municipalities, including retaliatory killings of several police officers.

The July 18 shooting of Charles Kinsey, a behavioral health tech for a group home in North Miami, was blatantly unnecessary. Our societal and law enforcement vigilantism has become reflective of the motto “shoot first, ask questions later.”

“All he has is a toy truck in his hand,” said Kinsey, as he yelled at two police officers standing behind telephone poles near the mid-street interaction. “That’s all it is. There is no need for guns.”

Despite Kinsey’s pleas, a North Miami police officer unwisely decided that three gunshots directed toward Kinsey were necessary. Kinsey received a bullet to one leg. His injury was not life-threatening, but required hospitalization.

Interviewed from a hospital bed, Kinsey stated that he asked the officer, “‘Sir, why did you shoot me?’ He said, ‘I don’t know.’”

Counseling young clients in their home environment for a government-funded agency can prove to be challenging, sometimes gratifying, but often grievous. I have lost count as to the number of calls necessitated to county-based Department of Child and Family Services for taking an adolescent from unsafe circumstances.

Being a “mandated reporter” is never easy. The parents often become either livid or are arrested for endangering their child. My full name is laminated on my agency badge. The potential of having a disgruntled parent locate my home is an unspoken job hazard.

Worrying about the mental status of an unstable patient is stressful enough within the confines of an often-volatile situation. Now the unpredictability of our once-trusted “first responders” makes this profession even more challenging.

Mariann Main

Local Answers to Life’s Questions

Mariann Main is a Delaware native and undergraduate journalism major of Ohio State University. She has a master’s degree in community counseling from Georgia State University and is two weeks away from completing all requirements for full credentialing as a licensed professional counselor. She can be contacted via [email protected]