Insightful Questions from a Counselor

QuestionsForLiving interview with Stefanie Limberger January 6th, 2012 regarding counseling and health management. 

QuestionsForLiving: What, if any, questions were you asking yourself that originally led to toward a career in counseling and occupational experiences in opiate addiction treatment/harm reduction and HIV prevention research?

Stefanie Limberger: The main question would have to be “What reasons do you have for behaving the way that you do?”

As a child I wanted to know why other children gossiped, or why adults got divorced.  As an adult the interest became more concrete and I started wondering about addictive behavior, violence and serious mental health issues.

Choosing to become a therapist was an easy decision and the training I received answered the fundamental questions I had regarding human behavior. The training gave me strategies to assist people in changing their behaviors and making healthier choices. It was a way to explain the how.

*There is a basic guideline within therapy and that is to never ask a person “Why?” You want to get at the “How“ and “What”. Starting question with those to words encourages a higher level of insight into issues and avoids the “Because” response.

QFL: Were there specific questions that you asked yourself during the time you were counseling that helped you be successful in your work? If so, what were some of these questions?

Limberger: The question that I asked myself on a daily basis was “How can I be a better therapist for my clients?”

Having that level of insight into myself, my own limitations, biases and strengths helped me be able to treat each client better.  For example, if I am aware that I am unable to effectively treat child sex offenders because of my own attachment to children, then I will refer them to a therapist who is a better fit. If I were to accept the case and allow my feelings to infiltrate session, my limitation would have potential to harm my client. Another example includes identifying with a patient. Let’s say that I am treating a person who death of a parent at a young age and I identify with that experience. It is important to identify how and why I am connecting with this patient, and continue treatment as a professional without my feelings affecting session.

The question I asked my clients was “Are you where you want to be in life?”

Most patients come to session wanting to unload, which gives them a feeling of relief. However, this relief is often short-lived and the problem continues. As a therapist, when you ask critical, open-ended questions, this prevents the unloading of the issue and leads towards problem solving.

QFL: Were you asking yourself any specific questions that prompted, or encouraged, your change toward Administration with a focus on International Health Management?

Limberger: I asked myself the same question that I asked my clients, “Am I where I want to be in my own life?” The answer was “No.”

After 5 years of working in the field, I had expected to be promoted to a management level position. It was clear that many people who work for Non-Profit organizations do not have a background in business and I felt that it was an important piece that was missing. After identifying that I wanted a bigger role within Mental Health Care, and was unable to get there with my current credentials, I developed a plan of action whereby I could reach my goal of being in Executive Management.

QFL: Both counseling and Health Management, focus on improving human health. Were there specific questions that you were asking yourself that motivated or encouraged your interest in improving human health?

  • “How can I make a difference in the lives of the people around me?”

  • “How can I improve myself to be a better person in the community I live in?”

Outside of questions, I was motivated by the observations I made. Every day, many people do not have access to the health care they need to be healthy. Specific to the patients I treated for opiate dependence, it was impossible to begin working on their mental health issues when they were dealing with untreated diabetes and abscessed teeth. In trying to find free/sliding scale health centers, I discovered how difficult it can be, to get adequate health care. For this reason, I feel that this country as a whole needs to improve access to health care for populations with limited/no access. I am looking to improve the system of health care that various communities within the US as well as those in other countries.

QFL: Independent of your work with Counseling and Health Administration and Management, what questions do you believe that people should/could ask themselves to make our world a happier and healthier place?

Limberger: It feels like many people focus on how they can improve their lives financially. It is about the size of the house, the white picket fence and having a nice car. What I think people should ask themselves is “What am I doing to improve the world that I live in?" and “How can I make a difference?”

If we as a community are only focusing on ourselves, we lose sight of the big picture “The health of the world that we exist in.” If we step outside of our own worlds for a few minutes each day and strive to make a difference in our communities, whether it be volunteering at a shelter, or picking up a piece of trash on the street, picking up a stray dog, etc., we can all help make this world a better place to live in.


Persistence in action

Mrs. Leslie Juvin-Acker's picture

I am always inspired by individuals who work hard to address tough real life issues like Stefanie. Not only is she working with individuals on a personal level, she is working toward overall structural changes that effect the lives of all of her patients (including non-patients). Hats off to Stefanie through her dedication and persistence through continual daily action!

-L.J. Acker


Jodi O'Donnell-Ames's picture

Loved the questions you propose and answer.  Very apropos for those who are searching for a sense of purpose.... thank you! We should all ask ourselves, am I making a difference and am I living my life purpose? daily!

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