Take a moment and cast your mind back over your life.
Would you say that your life has been completely trouble free?
Do you know anyone who has lived a totally problem-free life?
A person who has never faced a difficulty, a challenge, a distressing experience or a significant life change such as bereavement, divorce, redundancy or illness?
I certainly haven’t lived such a life, or know of anyone who has. The business of living can be tough at times.
We all experience family tensions, relationship issues, work pressures, financial worries, health concerns, or emotional pain at one time or another.
Most of us are lucky enough to have family and close friends who we can turn to.
But, occasionally that support is not exactly what we are looking for.
It is either not available, or it comes in a form that does not help, and so we end up struggling on our own.
That’s when help from a qualified counsellor can be invaluable and potentially life changing.
I have seen three counsellors in my life; the first one when I was as young as 16. I was sent to the school counsellor because I mentally collapsed under the pressure of exams and the incredibly high expectations of performance. I then sought counselling in my late twenties for stress and anxiety, and then in my early forties, as required by my counselling course.
Over the years, each of the therapists I have had the privilege of working with have profoundly and positively impacted my life.
They helped me to:
• understand the underlying energies at work in my life,
• release the burdens of the past,
• reconnect with my authentic self,
• increase my self-awareness,
• reclaim a sense of personal power and,
• above all else, they gave me pure, unconditional support; something I did not get from anywhere else in my life.
It does sadden me that many people who could really benefit from such support don’t seek it simply because they misunderstand the nature of counselling.
Here are 7 of the most common myths I’ve come across.
Myth #1 Counselling is for weak people who can’t resolve their own problems
Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s actually a sign of strength.
It takes awareness and insight to admit there’s a problem, and a great deal of courage to deal with it head on.
Strong people deal with their issues. Weak people stick their heads in the sand and choose to remain stuck and unhappy.
To overcome difficulties, a person must be willing to take a good look at themselves, and their life, and be willing to make changes; this takes great inner resolve and commitment.
Very few of us can deal with everything that life throws at us on our own. We’re social beings who need interaction with others for emotional support, learning and growth. Therefore, being open to receiving help is a vital component of a healthy mindset.
Myth #2 Counsellors only help people with mental health issues
It’s true that some people who receive counselling do have a mental health condition. However, they only make up a small proportion of the clients that counsellors work with.
Most people come to counselling because they’re struggling with an everyday problem. They want to work through a specific issue that is causing difficulty in their life and arrive at a place of inner peace.
We all experience stress, and if we don’t deal with its root cause, it can build up to a point where it becomes overwhelming and starts interfering with everyday life.
Feeling this way doesn’t mean a person has a mental health issue. It just means they need to pay attention to their feelings and actively deal with them. A counsellor can help them to do this.
Myth #3 Only people with severe problems can receive counselling
Not at all! Counselling can certainly help those with severe problems, or those who’ve experienced abuse or trauma in some form, but many people who seek counselling need support with everyday issues, such as anxiety, stress, depression or relationship concerns.
In fact it’s better to seek help at an early stage because it can prevent problems from getting worse. It can also save a lot of unnecessary pain and suffering.
The truth is that no concern is too small or insignificant to bring to counselling if it’s getting in the way of a person’s happiness and wellbeing, or holding them back.
Being supported in a completely safe, confidential and non-judgmental environment can help a person to:
• clarify their thoughts and feelings,
• explore their options, desires and goals,
• and consider possibilities they may not have recognised before.
This can be empowering - and transformative. Some people see counsellors solely for personal growth and self-development.
Myth #4 A counsellor’s job is to fix the client and their problems
No. Counselling is definitely not about the counsellor giving advice or telling someone how they should be living their life.
That would be taking away their power and autonomy; something that directly contradicts one of counselling’s key principles which is to respect a person’s right to make their own decisions.
What a counsellor can do is actively help a person to confront their personal issues, develop a better understanding of themselves, and access their inner resources to create positive changes.
S/he can help them to discover what they want and help them to work through the issues that are getting in the way of their wishes being realised.
S/he can listen, with undivided attention, care and compassion; offer insights and alternative perspectives on the situation; suggest tools and techniques to enable change to happen; and support the person through the process of change.
The client has to take responsibility, do the actual work to deal with their issues, and use the tools offered to makes changes in their life.
The counsellor can hold the space while they’re on that journey, respecting and affirming – and sometimes gently challenging - their choices to enable them to reach decisions they’re comfortable with.
The counselling relationship is always one of equals. The focus is always on the client, not the counsellor’s agenda or wisdom.
Myth #5 Counselling doesn’t work because it’s just talking about problems
Many people don’t realise that there’s a real therapeutic value in talking to, and being heard by, someone with no agenda, bias, or vested interest in them or their situation.
Working with a counsellor allows a person to be accepted, understood and supported in a much deeper way than is possible in everyday conversations or relationships.
Family and friends may be willing to support, but they’re usually unable to give the consistent, focused and objective attention a skilled counsellor is trained to provide.
There’s also an emotional relief that comes from simply sharing a problem. That in itself helps to reduce emotional pain and tension.
Speaking up about what’s going on inside is also the first step in finding a solution because it helps to unravel the thoughts, emotions, habits, behaviours and beliefs that are at play, sometimes at an unconscious level.
This can be a starting point for identifying what needs to change.
It can create a sense of balance and control, and shed new light on how to resolve the problem.
Myth #6 Counsellors always focus on the client’s childhood
The primary focus for counselling sessions is always the present because that is where the problem(s) manifest.
We all know that the past directly influences our experience of the here and now so, for that reason, it is necessary to gain an understanding of past events, emotions and wounds. These are factors that can keep a person stuck in a negative cycle. They need to be understood and healed in order for a person to move forward in life.
However it is important to understand that delving into the past is only done to gain insight into what is going on now.
Many counselling models work in a future/solution-orientated way.
How far the client’s past or childhood issues are explored depends very much on their concerns, the root of their problem(s), what they want to look at, the time available, and the approach the counsellor thinks would be most effective.
Myth #7 The counsellor will keep me trapped in therapy for years
This is not true if you are working with an ethical counsellor.
The intention is never to create a dependency. It is to empower people to work through their issues efficiently and effectively so that they can get on with their lives.
For many clients, as little as six sessions is all that is required to make a lasting difference.
The time spent in therapy is entirely up to the client.
I love being a counsellor and life coach. It is such a privilege to be allowed into people’s lives, hearts and minds.
I can’t explain how but something truly magical happens in these sessions. I watch with awe as, week after week, people begin to:
• feel lighter and less burdened
• increase their self awareness, self-confidence and self-acceptance
• improve their self-esteem
• gain more personal clarity
• enjoy healthier, more meaningful and fulfilling relationships
• experience a greater sense of inner control
• cultivate a more relaxed and positive attitude to life
• and gain a greater sense of personal power, joy, vitality and fulfilment.
As Jim Rohn said: “Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.”
Counselling can safely and successfully help you facilitate that change.
To check out the counselling service I provide click here: Counselling.
Or, if I am too far and you don’t wish to work via Skype then find a counsellor nearer home by clicking here: Counselling Directory.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the issues raised in this blog. Do you think counselling is for sissies? Please leave a comment below.