Fairly early in my time in Second Life, I discovered something about myself, something that's either less true or simply not exercised in First Life. I discovered that I am a good listener, that I have the patience to hear people tell their stories. Sometimes I can give them advice. More often, I just help them sort things out for themselves.
And I needed an occupation. I have not found it easy to make money in SL. Until recently, I was never much of a builder. I don't make items that can be sold. I do not aspire to be an escort. I have been a stripper, but I did not make much money at that. I am currently a host at a club, but the club has yet to take off among the myriad other clubs in SL. So I decided that instead of offering goods for sale, I would provide a service—counselling for the troubled avatar.
I did a search for counsellors on SL, and found only a few. I did chat with a very nice gentleman who is a counsellor. He said he wasn't very active in it any more, but he indicated that there might be a call for it in SL.
I am not trained in counselling. I do not claim to be. I am simply someone with a knack for doing it, which is confirmed for me by the positive feedback I receive from my occasionally troubled friends. I am not qualified to treat serious pathologies. If anything like that were to come up, I would strongly suggest that my client seek a qualified therapist in FL. But I'm pretty good at helping people deal with such things as relationship troubles, SL addiction, and gender identity issues. I find that people often know what they need to do about a situation. They just need a friendly, confidential ear and a bit of clarification.
Since I am untrained, should you give me your money? Well, yes. My rates are reasonable in SL terms, far less expensive than counselling in FL, and I really can help. A session with me is more effective and less expensive than shopping for a new outfit! I am an impartial, nonjudgmental listener. And anything you say to me is kept in strict confidence.
So far, business has been slow. I have had one paying client. One appointment was broken, and I have not heard from the person again. Some people have inquired but gone no further. Some people have IMed to set up appointments, but then I did not succeed in getting in touch with them. I can't be online all the time, and I'm finding that when people feel they need to talk to someone, they tend to want it now. Later, they've either found someone else or decided they don't need (or think they don't need) counselling after all.
But get this. I said I was not trained, right? Well, I just started a college course called Basic Counselling Skills. Why? In First Life, I am a software developer. The money is great, and I like the work, but it has always been an accidental career. I did not aspire to be a software developer. I'm a bit of a geek, but programming has never been a great fit for me. I did not succeed as a musician or an actor, and I've long been searching for a path that I can follow with a passion, the kind of passion I used to have for music. So I am exploring the possibility, rather late in life I'm afraid, of getting a certificate in counselling. If this prerequisite course feels right, I will probably work toward the certificate. Who knows? Eventually, I might even try to get a Master's degree in Counselling Psychology. If I live that long.
It was funny trying to explain to the instructor and my fellow students how I came to be taking the course. Many in the class have some related training (one woman is a life coach), or volunteer experience, or simply find themselves doing ad hoc counselling in their work. Me? "Well, er, you see, I found out that I like doing counselling in Second Life"—a virtual world, a world of computer-aided imagination. I think I puzzled at least as many people as I enlightened.
Now it's up to me to find out whether Second Life really is showing me something significant about myself, whether I want to become a counsellor in my First Life as well. If so, that will really be something!