For Mental Health Awareness Week, I would like to try to reduce the “stigma” and dispel some of the Myths about Counselling.
You don’t have to feel like your going ” Crazy” to have Counselling!
You don’t have to have a serious mental health condition or anything “wrong” with you to have Counselling. You may need some help making a decision. It could be a current situation you need to talk through for example - making a decision about University, your career, relationship, or changing something in your life - nothing is too great or too small to want to reach out for some discussion on your situation.
While your friends and family can be great for guidance, sometimes you need a professional who has no bias or stake in the outcome. A counsellor will listen with empathy (putting themselves in your shoes) without any judgement, in a confidential environment. With techniques and strategies, counselling can help you to deal with your concerns and find a way forward.
It can take as little as two or three meetings to untangle your thoughts and get a clearer view of which direction you want to go in.
Never think a problem is too small or insignificant to bring to counselling. Whatever is concerning you is important. When I first meet someone they often say “this is silly” or “It’s not really a big problem”. I never think it’s silly or unimportant. The time you have with a counsellor is about YOU and whatever you want to talk about.
Myths about Counselling
“Counselling should always take a long time”
Some people want to address a great number of factors, whereas others may to wish to tackle what they may perceive as a small difficulty. Both can impact greatly on their lives - and both are equally as important and it is not necessarily the ‘time’ that can make the huge improvement. Depending on what you bring, counselling may be short or long term - whatever your situation.
“Counselling never works”
Like many other forms of helping (medicine, personal training etc) counselling can help people to a greater or lesser extent, depending on many factors such as: sources of support, emotional readiness to change, clarity and realism of goals. The “chemistry” between the counsellor and client can also be an important factor - and even if counselling has not worked for individuals in the past, that does not mean that it may not be beneficial in the future. Some counsellors will suit clients better than others. You may have a preference for gender, or age, or ethnicity or culture. The “Therapeutic Alliance” is the main thing that gives Counselling its value - and the most important thing when you are seeking counselling.
"The therapeutic relationship...is the critical variable, not what the therapist says or does." Carl Rogers.
“Counsellors have their own lives all worked out”
Counsellors can sometimes be seen that way, and some might even believe it themselves sometimes, but it is definitely a myth!
“Clients will become over-dependant on their Counsellors”
It’s a risk, as with any situation where someone is helping vulnerable people but it definitely doesn’t always happen. Counsellors are trained to handle different situations as sensitively as possible.
“Counselling should always look at the client’s past”
This is something that varies a lot. It depends on the client’s issues and their roots, the amount of time available and what the client wants to do. A counsellor will not “make” a client reflect on the past but gently encourage them.
“Counselling is no use if the client is taking medication”
Like many things, medication is only part of the healing process, and both may be equally effective and complementary to one another. For instance, taking an antidepressant can help a depressed client engage in therapy, by easing emotional pain without necessarily numbing emotions. Tranquillisers, However, may reduce the client's capacity to reveal their emotions and so therapy at that time may not be as effective.
Liz Willis - part of the Cowan House counselling team