Myths about counselling
Here are six common counselling myths that can prove to be a barrier in taking that first step in seeing a counsellor. As we will see, none of them should stop you from getting the support you need.
Myth no. 1: ’There must be something wrong with me’
This is a very common myth, but there is nothing wrong with someone who approaches a counsellor for help. In fact, to accept help in this way takes an unusual degree of maturity.
We all find ourselves in difficult life situations from time to time – after all, a life without crisis or challenge would be very sterile. Whatever the situation we find ourselves, there is little point in blaming, or labelling ourselves.
Counselling can help us release our inner resources. Learning to accept help indicates a healthy, balanced personality.
"Nobody, as long as he moves among the chaotic currents of life, is without trouble." Carl Jung
Myth no. 2: ‘Talking about problems just makes them worse’
Our problems can seem far worse when they are left buried in the midst of a busy life. Sharing a problem with a trained counsellor can often lighten the load and provide an emotional release. There is no disguising the fact that sometimes counselling can involve painful self-examination. But you are in charge of that process – you can bring whatever you like to the sessions and choose the pace.
In general, experience suggests that when we shine a light on a problem we are better able to navigate it. We may need to clarify what we actually believe the problem to be in the first place – a counsellor can help create the right environment for achieving that perspective in an unbiased way.
Once the problem has been clarified, it is far easier to get to grips with it. In most situations, we’ll find the resources within to overcome the issue.
"In the midst of difficulty lies opportunity." Albert Einstein
Myth no. 3: ‘It is better just to talk to a friend’
Many people find that talking to someone who is independent of family and friends actually makes expressing difficult feelings easier. Your counsellor is not there to judge what the right thing to do is in your situation. In contrast, family and friends may often fall into the trap of giving you advice that may be right for them, but not necessarily for you. They may naturally have the best of intentions, but their personal involvement may cloud their objectivity. Through no fault of their own, they may not permit feelings of hurt or anger to surface. A ‘safe’ environment, one where all feelings are permitted, creates the possibility of being put in touch with those feelings.
Approaching a counsellor to work with can feel daunting. Initially, you know very little about them apart from what they say, for example, on their website. You are relative strangers at first. But that needn’t stop you from contacting someone who you feel is suited to your particular needs.
It is obviously important to feel as though you can work well with your counsellor – the only real way to establish that is by meeting them in person. The initial session may already help you clarify what it is that is really bothering you. Knowing that it is completely confidential can be quite a liberating feeling.
Myth no. 4: 'Counselling is a sign of weakness'
It takes a brave person to confront what is really on their mind. To seek help from a counsellor is actually a mature sign that you wish to cope better, or develop as a person. Counselling facilitates self-awareness, which is sign of strength, not weakness.
Seeking the right kind of help is also a sign that you take your needs seriously. Talking about how you really feel – and acknowledging what you may want to change – takes real courage. Embarking on such a highly personal journey involves feeling and thinking deeply, as well as a sense of commitment to the whole process.
"Out of your vulnerabilities will come your strength." Sigmund Freud
Myth no.5: 'Counselling is a self-indulgent waste of money'
As far as counselling is concerned, the most important person in the world is actually you. The counselling hour is all about you and the difficulties you are facing in life at the moment – it is the chance to say what is really bothering you. But that isn’t the same as being self-indulgent.
Many people have creative insights into themselves and others during counselling sessions. Counselling is also a great catalyst for personal development and is about putting your needs first. This is certainly not selfish, though could be called ‘self-interested’ because it involves positive self-regard. Surely creatively constructing your ‘Self’ is something worth devoting time to?
I would go further, in fact, and say that creating the time and space for your inner development is essential to your well-being. Giving yourself time to develop is a form of nourishment which ultimately pays dividends. It is a way of discovering who you really are and what you’d like to become. In the end, everyone around you benefits from this development because you are happier. It rubs off on them too.
"The most creative act you will ever undertake is the act of creating yourself." Deepak Chopra
Myth no 6: ' Counselling won’t work for me’
The results from counselling tend to be positive, long-term ones. People of all ages report that they become better aligned with their true selves. Their outlook on life’s problems and their own issues may fundamentally shift in counselling. Finding one’s own values and living them authentically is an incredibly rewarding process.
The experience of change will naturally differ for each person, but it can be said with confidence that personal growth will emerge from the process. For one person that might mean developing a greater capacity for reflection, whilst for another it might mean becoming more comfortable in social situations. Counselling can work in wonderfully unpredictable ways if we can overcomes all the counselling myths.
"Am I living in a way which is deeply satisfying to me, and which truly expresses me?" Carl Rogers