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Myths and Misconceptions of Counselling and Psychotherapy

What puts you off from seeing a counsellor?



 

“They’re gonna analyse me”.

“What’s the point in talking to a stranger when I can speak to my friends for free?”

“I don’t want a divorce”.

“They’ll make me hate my mother!”

“They will just ask me how things make me feel”.

“There’s nothing wrong with me”.

“Counselling is only for severe issues”.

“I’m a strong person”.

“They just stare and listen, it’s a waste of time”.

“I had a perfect childhood, there’s no need!”

 

I’m getting a bit carried away here, would you believe I could add plenty more to this list??

 

I think I have possibly heard all the reasons and misconceptions under the sun. So, I’d like to write this to straighten a few things out. Not necessarily to convince you to go to counselling as I truly believe that you will only benefit from it if you genuinely want to be there and give it a go. If your friends or family are giving you the nudge and you do not feel ready, it will be a waste of your money and time – and we all know that counselling is a big investment!

 

You need to be able to be in a place where you can invest yourself and commit, and you won't really know if you are ‘there’ until you try. Counselling is tough work; it can be all-consuming and emotionally draining. Counselling quite often can make you feel worse before you begin to feel better. I’m not making this sound too good or fun really, am I? There is no guarantee that counselling will ‘cure’ or ‘fix’ you, and that’s not our aim as counsellors, either. BUT (and this is a big but) counselling can be the one thing you need to break free, truly live, and feel better. Counselling is without a doubt one of the best things you can ever do for yourself. So, let's begin destigmatising. Below you’ll find me giving my two pennies' worth of the above statements. Yay!

 




“They’re gonna analyse me”.

I mean, kinda? Am I going to tell you my theories and ideas and expect you to be on board and nod? Nope. Am I going to get you to lie down on a couch whilst I sit and take notes? Nope, definitely not. But yes, I do have theory in mind during sessions and I do use my knowledge to help you gain a deeper meaning of yourself, your life, and your circumstances. I see therapy as a collaboration, I do not sit as the expert in the room. I’m not going to find the root cause of your issues, I believe only you can do that. My job is to help you get there, if and when you are ready.

 

“What’s the point in talking to a stranger when I can speak to my friends for free?”

When you speak to your friends and family do they tend to give you advice? Do they talk about what they would do, or did do in a similar situation? Did they tell you things will get better, not to worry, to put on a brave face? Yeah, counsellors don’t do that. Talking to family and friends is great and I advocate for it, it is important to lean on our support systems, but the big difference is counsellors won’t try to help you put a plaster on your problems. We won’t rescue you and cover up your pain. We are trained to sit in it with you, and that can be something other people find incredibly uncomfortable to do.

 

“I don’t want a divorce”.

We do not want that for you either! An ethical, professional counsellor in no way shape or form is going to tell you to get a divorce or tell you what to do full stop. We are there to guide you to find a path that’s right for you, not encourage you to make life decisions based on what we think is best. Counsellors are there to listen to you and support you to come to your own conclusions and resolutions. It is your life, not ours. We are never going to encourage you to get a divorce.

 

“They’ll make me hate my mother!”

Similar to what I said above, we are not going to encourage you to feel a certain way about anyone. We are not going to give you our opinions of what we think you should or should not do, or how you should or should not feel. We do not place blame. However, if you feel like hating your mother would be the outcome of therapy, I do encourage you to ponder on this a little and wonder what’s coming up for you there.

 

“They will just ask me how things make me feel”.

Ah, that common lovely phrase we see plastered all over the media – ‘How do you feel about that?’ – I have steered away from this phrase throughout my entire career, but yes, I will try to help us both understand how things make you feel. I will also use lots of other things within my skill set.

 

“There’s nothing wrong with me”.

More often than not, this is what we try to get across. You’re right, there is nothing ‘wrong’ with you. People who go to counselling are not broken.

 

“Counselling is only for severe issues”.

Counselling can be for severe issues, it can also be for those who just need a helping hand. It can be for those who aren’t sure what’s going on for them but just know that something seems off or doesn’t feel quite right. Its purpose is to help you explore issues on your terms, wherever you’re comfortable to begin.

 

“I’m a strong person”.

People who seek counselling are not weak. They are some of the bravest people I have ever met. It takes a lot of courage to go to counselling. You can be ‘strong’ either way.

 

“They just stare and listen, it’s a waste of time”.

We do not just stare and listen. Well, I don’t anyway. My job is to build a therapeutic relationship with you, and I highly doubt I'm going to make you feel comfortable looking like I've been possessed by a zombie! I do my utmost to ease you in and show that I'm warm and a genuine person. I share laughter with my clients, sometimes some psychoeducation, I offer reflections and my input, and sometimes I am quiet, and I do listen. Everyone is different and counsellors will tailor their approach to fit you in a way we feel can support you best.

 

“I had a perfect childhood, there’s no need!”

No one, and I mean, NO ONE, has a perfect childhood because there is no such thing as perfect parenting. No matter who we are, no matter how hard we try, we are never going to get everything right because we are human. That doesn’t mean to say you had a terrible childhood, either, and counselling is not solely for childhood issues or generational trauma.

 

I’d love to keep going but maybe that will be a blog for the future. The bottom line is that unless you have seen a counsellor, you will never really know what it is like or what you are in for. Each experience with a new counsellor will be different, too, so if you have tried it once in the past and decided it's not for you that may just mean you and your therapist were not a good match. Or it could mean that you weren’t ready. It can take time to find a counsellor whom you feel comfortable with, and whose personality and skillset suits you and your needs. The beneficence of counselling can quite often very much depend on the relationship you build between you and your therapist, and this can take time. If you’d like to read more about choosing a counsellor, check out one of my earlier blogs: ‘How Do I Find a Counsellor Who Is Right for Me?’.

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