Welcome to this post! The fact that you are asking this question is a good sign and a great step forward in your journey of self-reflection. Sometimes simply asking the questions and seeking the answers is half the battle, so keep pushing forward! Let’s talk about counseling and get a real picture of the myths around it and how to decide if counseling is for you.
You have probably noticed the woman talking quietly in the corner to her friend, divulging that she knows a friend that started going to counseling but “that’s just between us.” Or you may have even found yourself wondering if counseling is for you but it seems too “intense”, “unnecessary” and “extreme” for what you might be going through.
When did counseling get such a bad rap? How did it become labeled as “intense”? People seem to compare counseling with those disturbing scenes from “One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest” and would rather suffer in silence than be subjected to a group session monitored by Nurse Ratchet. Well, who could blame them!
All joking aside, counseling or therapy, is so much more simplistic than all of that. Like all of us, it comes in many shapes and sizes, but at the heart of counseling there is a desire to support, encourage and grow.
Have you ever been told or encouraged to talk to a counselor and found yourself feeling offended that someone thought you were “crazy enough” to need it? Your defensiveness would make sense if you picture counseling as the following things. Here is a short list of common counseling myths:
1. It is only for “crazy” or really “mentally ill” people
2. It only promotes medication for treatment
3. It will label you with a diagnosis for the rest of your life
4. It is never-ending
5. It is a scary place
There are so many stigmas and beliefs about counseling. Some of them come from people who have been burned by the process and some of them by people who haven’t even stepped foot in the door. That is tough. Who do you believe when it comes to making this choice? You could try something and fail or you do not try at all and find yourself in the same place you started. The choice is entirely up to you!
Here is a little insider tip: Counselors were not created equal. This is IMPORTANT. Like buying a new car or investing in a life-changing decision, it takes time, research and maybe a little trial and error to find the right fit for you. But do not let that scare you off! Anything worth having takes effort and time. You are investing in your overall mental health, and that is no small feat! My suggestion is to find the counselor that fits your personality best and one that will help you towards your personal goals. There are amazing therapists out there, do not settle for the quick fix.
So, now that we have confronted the myths about counseling, let’s check out some of the ways that counseling could be an option for you. If you can relate to some of these things, deeply consider finding a counselor or therapist in your area:
#1 You experienced a loss in your life whether in the past or recently and are having
trouble moving forward in your “new normal”
#2 You find yourself trying to talk with friends and family about a struggle you are
having, but don’t feel it changes anything
#3 When stress or challenges come up in your life, you don’t feel like you know how to
#4 The only coping mechanisms you know are self-medicating (alcohol, drugs, self harm)
#5 You have a been a victim of abuse and find yourself struggling in relationships with
others as a result of it.
#6 You are in a relationship/marriage and cant seem to stop fighting over the same things
#7 You are not feeling like yourself and don’t know why
#8 You feel like you need someone to talk to about questions and thoughts you have on life
Do any of these match what you are going through right now? Even if they touch just one aspect of your current struggle, it is worth it to keep investigating whether therapy is for you or not. I know for myself, counseling has been an awakening at various times in my life. It can feel scary to expose your deepest thoughts and vulnerable places to someone else. It is so normal to want to protect that- to keep it safe. A counselor is there to help you expose those places with as little fear as possible along the way. Therapy is a JUDGMENT-FREE zone. Phew!
Here is my CHALLENGE TO YOU: If you fit any of these descriptions or even if you do not, but are still wondering if counseling is for you, just try it! TRY IT OUT. Find a therapist that offers a free consultation and put in the legwork to really make an informed decision. What do you have to lose? Decide for yourself what YOU think about counseling and you might be surprised by what you find.
My hope for you is not that you decide counseling is for you. My hope for you is that you become open to the option that it might be. That is a step in the right direction for living a whole and balanced life; being open to the things that might scare and intimidate you. The benefits of counseling can blow any fears you have out of the water. Find a counselor in your area today and personally bust any myths you have about counseling!
Toni Greco, LPC