I was talking to an acquaintance the other day about what I do for a living. Curiously, he said, “I bet you see a lot of crazy people in that job, don’t ya?” I laughed and politely told him, no, and that it’s mostly filled with your average, everyday people.
Why is it that there is still such a stigma when it comes to counseling?
In short, I don’t know.However, what I do know is that it is so common that many time these stigmas keep us from seeking the help that we truly need.
In my time counseling, I have heard so many issues people have had with counseling, but above all I have compiled four of the most common myths I see that should be dispelled.
1. Counseling is Only for Crazy People
“I don’t need counseling, I’m not crazy?” This one is all too common. Many times, we believe that counseling is only for the worst of the worst. However, this misconception is so far from the truth.
Counseling is filled with so many people, and most of them quite normal. In fact, ALL normal. Some issues may vary in magnitude, but all normal.
Why? Because pain is universal. It is something everyone experiences. Who hasn’t had a hard moment in their life? Seeking guidance in those hard moments is not weakness, rather a sign of maturity and an ability to reach a better understanding of yourself. Better yet it is an opportunity to grow in those moments and be better off on the other side.
2. I Might Be Judged
Many times I have clients hold back or tell me something a few weeks later out of fear of being judged. Honestly, I find this one completely understandable because who wants to be judged or looked down upon? No one.
Often times we go to friend, family, or others near to us with something important expecting acceptance. Unfortunately, in some cases, we are received with judgment, criticism, or a myriad of other negative actions.
Counseling is different. Counselors are objective helpers, with the responsibility to create a safe and confidential place that is free of imposing our own beliefs. In fact we are bound to a code of ethics that supports this. (A.4.b ACA Code of Ethics) So, if anything, one of the safest places to share your deeper issues is with a counselor.
3. We Are Not Psychic
This may honestly be my favorite myth, because it makes counselors look way cooler than we actually are. Many people think that we are these overly intelligent mind gurus, who with one or two cues from you we have you completely figured out. Hate to break it to you, while most of us are cool, we aren’t that cool.
At risk of sounding like a crotchety old man, I do believe the media has helped spur this one along. We are not psychological profilers like the heroes in your Crime Dramas. We don’t jump to conclusions about your childhood just because you sat on one side of the room or because you looked left when you answered my question.
We are just regular people who are trained at asking questions, provoking thought, and helping people get through certain struggles.
4. It’s OK to “Date Around”
All too often, I see people in counseling who just don’t like their counselor and dread going to counseling each week.
We get this idea that we pick one counselor and stick with him or her. That is it. No more. But this is so far from the truth.
Some people just don’t gel well together and that’s fine. If things aren’t working, it is totally acceptable to “break up” with your counselor in search of one who fits your personality, while still allowing you to grow.
In grad school, I had a professor who use to say, “The two most important things to the success of counseling is the client/counselor relationship and the client’s willingness to change.” While you dictate your willingness to change. If you don’t get along with your counselor you are not going to get much accomplished.
You want to find someone who you feel comfortable with. You have the potential of opening up and sharing some really deep stories with this person. It’s important that you feel that comfort with them. So go out there, do some research, and ask hard questions to your counselor. Find someone who you can see yourself allowing to challenge you and push you all in a safe way.