Keith Karabin, BADASS: Working Title




[Rant Mode: Active]

Identity. We all have one. Our “identities…give meaning and guidance” to our lives according to a Princeton University study. These priceless compasses of life are cobbled together from internal data, social detritus and the heartfelt reflections of our loved ones. 

I’m currently puzzling over something in the “social detritus” category, that of professional title. This one comes up a lot at parties. “I am a Petroleum Distribution Consultant,” or “I am a Intermediate Provision Facilitator,” or “I am a Multi-disciplinary Sanitation Engineer.” I can’t attest to ever having dubbed myself with such titles, though I have been a gas station attendant, convenience store clerk and janitor. Those titles helped inform my role and expectations to myself and those I served.

Some of you may have noticed that I recently changed my “As a Psychotherapist” page to “As a Counselor.” This was a response to my field’s seemingly vacilitory perspective on the two titles. I was taught that I shouldn’t call myself a counselor because I may be confused with a Licensed Professional Counselor. This was four years ago while obtaining my Master’s Degree in Christian Counseling. Yet, currently, a friend working towards a similar degree was told that the field is moving away from titles like psychotherapist and embracing counselor. I’m never one to bow to popular opinion, but I’m always one to err on the side of caution when ethical or legal misrepresentation are on the line. 

Beware The Frustrated Whosits!

Alright, are your eyes glazing over? I don’t want this to get overly technical, so I’ll hit you with some emotion; I’m frustrated. Not gibbering and frothing at the mouth, but frustrated. This is the third time that I’ve tried to answer the question “What am I?” First was right after I graduated. I read so many conflicting reports that I gave up. Some said psychotherapist, some said counselor. I wasn’t working in the field, so I put it off. Next was while building this site. I didn’t want to misrepresent myself, but my new research still deemed the titles essentially interchangeable yet different. I picked what seemed most correct since, according to a lengthy article at Psyche Central, “Master’s level therapists are usually trained in psychotherapy techniques [and] become general psychotherapists.” Simple, right? Sure, except that the description is under the heading Counselor.

Counselor Link, another psychologically focused website, declared that “the interchangeable use of the terms typically sparks neither controversy nor confusion.” Maybe that’s true for clients, but as a member of the field, I’m raising a hand as confused.

All I’m seeking, and have sought for over four years, is a concrete professional title. As the internet only netted frustration, I went so far as to contact the Pennsylvania Board of Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists and Professional Counselors and the Pennsylvania Board of Psychology for a clear answer. So far only the Board of Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists and Professional Counselors has responded. Their “Privileged and Confidential Attorney-Client Communication,” as it was marked in red, was that “you can call yourself anything.” Except anything that had the word “licensed” in it. Excellent, based on State legal counsel I shall heretofore refer to myself as a Behavioral Adaptation and Dogmatic Adjustment System Specialist. Now there’s some credentials at the end of your name. Keith Karabin, BADASS.

I stumbled upon a patch of solid ground amid the mire when a Psychlinks forum put the distinction, and the debate into focus “There may be quite a bit of overlap…however…while a psychotherapist is qualified to provide counseling, a counselor may or may not possess the necessary training and skills to provide psychotherapy.” That made sense, and brought the issue back to where it is most important to me; not misleading a present or future client as to my skill set or focus. A phlebotomist and a comic book artist both draw blood, but one title connotates a whole different skill set and focus than another.

I am What I am, and That’s All That I am

“Identity, itself, matters” as proven by a comprehensively complex Stanford University article. We know this is true, but the endless debate within the psychological community fails to reflect it on a professional level. Which frustrates me. A great deal of this vaguery and frustration could be mitigated, with a simple, coherent, well-advertised, state or nationally run website which connects a set of skills with a professional title. This would help practitioners and clients. If I’m a client who needs some guidance, I know to seek a counselor. If I’m a client who needs guidance, and believes that, on some level, I may need to work out some past issues, then I seek a psychotherapist. Also, it would help clients understand what they’re in for. I have heard many stories which involve sitting down across from an over-educated, ill-matched clinician who gave people complex answers to simple problems. In the end, both parties felt foolish.

In all my internet research I came across a wonderful gem of wisdom on Psychlinks, for those of us attempting to find the right professional identity, or those seeking to identify the right professional. Relate yourself, or your needs, to this simple illustration and you will have your answer.

A client sits down and says: “I’m afraid someone is outside the door listening to us.” A counselor opens the door to take a look. A therapist explores why the client believes this.

I would hope that I have the counseling horse-sense to do the former. I know, from my previous experience, that my first instinct is to do the latter. I “posses the necessary training and skills” to do the latter.

However, I shall continue to refer to myself as a counselor until I hear back from the Board of Psychology. I have no emotional investment in either title. I do not wish to upset my colleagues misrepresent myself or lead clients astray. I seek to do the opposite. Thus, I am content as a counselor.

That is, unless I stick with Keith Karabin, BADASS.

It is pretty cool.


[Rant Mode: Deactivated]

8 Responses to “Keith Karabin, BADASS: Working Title

  • You know, Counselor Troi could be a BADASS.

    Personally I like the term we coined using Pratchett’s character Granny Weatherwax as a springboard. She said most magic was actually “headology,” so we started referring to my shrink as my headologist. It kind of stuck and exploded.

    It might not help you though.

    I really don’t know. I’ve been to counselors, therapists, and psychiatrists. Psychiatrists only managed my medication, seeing me for about 10 minutes a pop, while the therapist asked me if I were a kind of tree, what tree would I be? The counselors I saw as a young’n? I think I preferred them.

  • Headologist, BADASS
    8 years ago

    Headology! I forgot. Julie, that rules.

    (Troi rules, also.)

    I have a great respect for counselors & counseling. Concrete solutions to life’s issues get us through, & improve, our days. I also respect a psychotherapist’s s ability to help us sort out our past to improve our futures. I don’t respect that therapist who asked you about the personal tree…that’s an assy question.

    Now, I have asked groups what superpower they’d have.


  • I would fly.

  • Zanne
    8 years ago

    When I was putting myself through college and grad school as a waitress, I used to tell people that ‘I prefer not to be defined by my occupation’. This unexpected response shook almost everybody up, which either speaks to the intense need for the human mind to categorize incoming information or to the company I used to keep [for some reason many people would follow up by asking if I was somehow involved in the sex trade]. I wasn’t ashamed of my occupation but I didn’t want to be limited by it in other’s minds… Is America such a capitalist society that ‘who you are’ is now inextricably linked with ‘what you do’? As in, how do YOU contribute to the GNP? Used to be, women were defined by their relationships to men [So-and-so’s daughter, wife, mother, etc.]. But occupational definition is equally hollow – just ask anyone who retired and dropped dead less than a year later because they couldn’t find a reason to live without a job to go to every day. But maybe that’s too intense, I know you are not looking for a title for self-definition, just a title for your work, and I like ‘psychotherapist’ as it’s been very theraputic to know you 😉

  • zippy
    8 years ago

    “In the context of mental health, “counseling” is generally used to denote a relatively brief treatment that is focused most upon behavior. It often targets a particular symptom or problematic situation and offers suggestions and advice for dealing with it.

    “Psychotherapy” on the other hand is generally a longer term treatment which focuses more on gaining insight into chronic physical and emotional problems. It’s focus is on the patient’s thought processes and way of being in the world rather than specific problems.”

    I think that you could be a psychotherapist, but that what you are doing now is counseling. However, there is a tremendous amount of overlap, especially when you become and LPC and can 3rd party bill, private practice etc.

  • Keith Karabin
    8 years ago

    You have a point about the Americanization of professional identity, Suz. It surely influences my frustration. I am glad, though, that the sex trade is not on my resume. Yet.


  • Keith Karabin
    8 years ago

    Wow. Way to come out of the box with salient points. While I’ve found similar descriptions of the bled between psychotherapy and counseling in action, your summary is more concise than most. Thanks for sharin’ your insights. Glad to hear more from you.


Trackbacks & Pings

  • My Favorite Failing Five | Keith :

    […] Keith Karabin, BADASS – It’s no “On the Road,” but it was my attempt to define where I fit in the world of professional therapy while also highlighting the ambiguity with which a journeyman therapist is confronted when simply trying to discover what to call himself. Final answer: Psychotherapist is most accurate and inoffensive to authorities. […]

    6 years ago

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