Going to see a Counsellor can be scary, often we don’t know what to expect, what it’s really all about and the most important thing of all, will it make me feel any better? There are many ideas out there about what counselling is or isn’t, counselling is portrayed in so many different ways on TV, in films, books and social media.
These images can stop us from taking that first step of reaching for help when we need it most.
Here are 10 of the most common myths.
Myth 1: Going to counselling is a sign of weakness
Reality: It can be really difficult to hold our hand up and admit we are finding things difficult. Often, we see strength as holding everything together, keeping our emotions bottled up and not allowing others to see what is really going on. For me, facing up to our problems takes and shows huge strength.
Counselling can help you tackle your challenges and to becoming the person you want to be, living the life you want to live.
Myth 2: Everyone will know I’m seeing a counsellor
Reality: Counselling is a completely confidential relationship between you and your counsellor. The only people who will know that you are seeing a counsellor are the ones who you choose to tell. Some people choose to tell no-one, whilst others choose to tell everyone they know – it’s completely up to you, either way it’s OK.
Myth 3: Other people’s problems are bigger than mine
Reality: Sometimes telling ourselves that there’s other people worse off than ourselves can help us put things in a different perspective or make us feel a bit more positive but there comes a point where it can actually lead to us ignoring or diminishing what’s really going on for us.
When we look at others, it can add additional pressure, that we have to behave, act or look in a certain way. But do we really know how that other person is really coping behind closed doors or even if they are?
The truth is that everyone finds life tough from time to time, and its OK to struggle. But struggling alone is really not a great place to be. Counselling can really help; it can be the start of you feeling better and stronger.
Myth 4: A counsellor will tell me what to do
Reality: A professional counsellor won’t tell you what to do. They may offer information on a particular challenge you are experiencing, for example, if you are not sleeping properly, but it is always your choice as to whether you take this information and do anything with it.
A counsellors’ role is to help you explore your challenges and help you to draw your own conclusions as to the best way forward for you.
You are an expert in your own life and what is right for you, it’s a counsellors’ job to help you discover what that is.
Myth 5: I will only be able to talk about things that are wrong with my life, that make me sad, angry or just generally feeling low.
Reality: People often come to counselling because things have gone wrong in some way, they may be sad, angry, low, exhausted or overwhelmed. But happiness, joy and laughter come up in counselling too.
You can talk about whatever you want to during a counselling session, after all it’s time to focus on you. It’s OK to celebrate when things are going well.
Essentially you are able to be where you are in that particular moment in time. All emotions, be they light or dark, are welcome in the counselling room.
Myth 6: I don’t have a mental health condition, so counselling isn’t for me
Reality: For some people who come to counselling, they may have received a mental health diagnosis from their GP. They may be coming to counselling either alongside or instead of medication. However, this isn’t always the case, sometimes people feel that they are stuck on an emotional roller coaster that they just can’t seem to get off. Counselling can help you to find a way to break the cycle.
Counselling is for everyone and anyone, with or without a mental health condition. Life can be great but it can also be really tough at times.
Myth 7: A counsellor will just sit there, with thier head on one side, nodding at me and not saying a word
Reality: Definitely not! A counsellor will certainly listen, and I mean really listen to you and what you have to say. They will help you focus on what your real challenges are, clarifying what you really think and feel about particular situations, the effect these are having on your day to day life, how you would like things to be and what you might want to change. I believe that being heard is one of the most powerful things we can experience, this is a very big part of counselling but it is more than that, so much more.
Myth 8: I tried counselling once, it didn’t work then so it won’t work now
Reality: Sometimes we don’t get what we need from counselling and there can be many factors surrounding this including:
- Not being clear about what we really want to achieve, what will your life look like when you’ve got to that point?
- You avoided the stuff that you really wanted to talk about (but your counsellor wasn’t aware of what this stuff was so wasn’t able to help you focus)
- You just didn’t gel with the counsellor, their personality or way of working. It’s important to use your initial meeting with a counsellor (whether you are paying privately or seeing a counsellor through a charity or the NHS), to really assess if this counsellor is right for you, do you feel that they really get you?
- The time wasn’t right. Counselling can be hard work and you do need time in between sessions to really think about what you are learning about yourself and trying out new ways of doing things. If this time isn’t available for whatever reason, it can feel like progress is slower that you hoped.
Myth 9: Talking to a stranger can’t help
Reality: Talking to friends and family can help us through so much in our lives. But sometimes they aren’t available to us or we worry that we are burdening them with our problems, we worry that we will upset them or fear their rejection. Maybe it’s friends or family that are at the root of your problem which makes it even more complicated to turn to them.
So, we keep quiet and stay stuck, suffering alone. When talking to a counsellor, the fear of upsetting someone, being judged or rejected is taken away which means that you can say out loud what it’s really like to be you, truly being heard. This is where the healing can begin.
Myth 10: Counselling will go on for years and will cost a fortune
Reality: Some clients do continue to go to counselling for a while, because they gain so much from it but for most clients they will attend for a short period of time, on average 8 – 12 sessions. A counsellor will discuss with you at your initial meeting how many sessions they would suggest (or how many sessions they are able to offer you if you are seeing an NHS Counsellor).
Counselling is something that you can stop at any point when you feel that things have changed for you or that you have done enough for the time being – it’s always something that you can pick up again in the future if you wanted to.
The truth is counselling can really help people of all ages and from all walks of life. It can help you find a different perspective, banish overwhelm and stop you from feeling stuck, alone or isolated.
It’s important to find the right counsellor for you. Someone who you feel you can really trust, who gets you, who you feel comfortable with and are able to open up to.
Counselling can be hard work, is it easy? No, is it worth it? Yes!
I work with people just like you, so don’t struggle alone, get in touch with me on 07305 621885 or email me firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for reading
About the Author: Sarah Tinsley is qualified and registered counsellor, based near Chorley, Lancashire. Working with adults and young people aged 11+, helping them work through the confusion, build confidence, gain control and find new direction in your life.