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Counselling is the ultimate in self-care. Exploding 5 myths about counselling

People often feel they have to be really struggling before they “need” therapy but in reality, if there is any area of your life that you feel a bit held back or just uneasy about then counselling can probably help.  If you had a niggle with your physical health, a recurring headache, an issue with your leg, you would investigate it before it got worse so why not do that with your mental health? 

Often when I speak to clients, they tell me they have thought about counselling for a while, they may have even investigated it and looked at counsellor profiles before they actually find the courage to take that first step.

An issue explored while it’s an uneasy feeling is easier to resolve than once it’s become a longer-term anxiety or depression.  Clients often report being aware of an unease, or a feeling of not wanting to do something before they developed a more recognised mental health condition.

Counselling for some is seen as the ultimate in self-care, clients often carry on with monthly or six weekly check in appointments after a period of more intensive therapy simply because they recognise how it keeps things in check and gives them an emotional outlet.

Here are 5 reasons people often give for not seeking counselling

  • My problems are only small, others have worse lives and bigger problems than me

A problem is a problem no matter what its size, and who is to say what qualifies a problem to be large enough to seek help?

People see counsellors for a whole range of issues.  If an issue is causing you unease or distress, then you owe it to yourself to explore it and see why.  Often just discussing the issue with someone non-judgemental can help you view it in a different way and take a weight from your shoulders.

Counselling also helps by teaching you ways to manage problems.  You can develop resilience and ways to view things that can help in the future.

  • I can’t afford counselling

Often this is something that clients agonise over but I’ve never met a client that regretted making an investment in themselves!  Most who come wanting a quick fix soon realise the value for money they receive.  Counselling in not just an investment in the here and now, but for the rest of your life.  A small weekly or fortnightly cost now can have ongoing benefits.  Can you really put a price on changing your life for the better long-term?

Counselling is not just a financial investment but one of time and effort in you.  This can change your whole outlook on life, your interactions with others and how you cope with life’s events going forward. 

Very often small mental health issues can lead on to eating disorders, drug or alcohol dependency, more debilitating depression and anxiety which can, in turn lead to time off work or issues within your relationships.  All of these things can then have an effect on not only your emotional well-being but your financial position too. Counselling is a positive investment that can help prevent more costly life events in the future.

  • Having counselling is a sign of weakness
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It takes a huge amount of courage to admit there is something you are struggling with and to ask for help.  In my opinion, rather than being a sign of weakness it is in fact a sign of strength.

Having unresolved issues may lead you to be short-tempered, develop anxiety or panic attacks, or withdraw in relationships.  By trying to cope on your own you may just find it more difficult to be yourself and to care for those around you.  The feelings may stop you doing the things you enjoy.  Having the courage to admit this is happening and seek help to explore what is going on takes strength.

Many clients tell me they have been thinking about counselling for a while and it was only when things started to affect their work or relationships that they sought help.  Imagine if you sought help before they escalated and added the extra level of shame of “needing” help.

Instead of seeing it as a weakness try and view it as a strength.  Remember that counselling is also confidential so you are the only person who knows you are having it, if that’s the way you prefer it.

  • How can talking help?  I can talk to family and friends

Talking enables us to give an outlet to the thoughts and feelings that may have been going around and around inside our head, and make sense of it.  “So I can do that with friends or family” I hear you say. Yes you can talk to friends and family but the difference is a counsellor listens with no judgement, no interruptions and will not try and “fix” things.  They will offer a perspective, often one that you haven’t looked at before, and they facilitate you finding different ways of looking at things. 

The confidential environment of counselling also allows you to speak uncensored.  There may be things you would not say to a friend or family member that you can say to a counsellor with no fear of judgement or anyone else knowing it has been said.  I know from my own therapy there are things that I’ve only ever said to a therapist and that’s exactly how it will stay.

For many people talking to someone within an accepting and non-judgemental space is a new experience and it has incredible power to change.

  • I won’t know where to start or what to talk about

Many clients come to their first session saying they don’t know where to start or don’t know what to say.  By the end of the session they are usually surprised how fast the time passed and comment how they hadn’t realised how much they were holding on to.

There are many different counselling approaches and of course different counsellors with different personalities.  Just like any relationship it is important you find someone who works in a way you feel comfortable with and who you feel you can talk to.  Ask yourself “Do I feel heard?”.  I tell all my clients that if they don’t feel I am right for them then it is fine to say so and try someone else.  At the point you find the right counsellor, you will know what you need to share.  It should feel OK to be open and you should feel supported but I’m not going to say it is easy. 

So if you feel counselling could be helpful what do you do now?

  • Have a look online at some counselling directories such as the BACP website, Counselling Directory or Psychology Today.
  • Have a read of some profiles of people in your area and look at their websites if they have them.
  • Make a shortlist of some you feel you may be able to work with based on what you’ve read.
  • Send an email or give them a call.  Many offer short telephone appointments so you can get more of a feel for whether you can work with them.
  • Arrange an initial appointment.
  • It is natural to be nervous but remember that the counsellor understands this and may also be a bit nervous too (I often am!).  Meeting new people can be hard.
  • You may instantly know in the session that you feel comfortable but if not take some time afterwards to reflect on how you feel.  Most importantly if it doesn’t feel right then don’t feel afraid to say so and try someone else.
  • If this counsellor doesn’t feel right or if you decide it isn’t the right time that’s fine, just let the counsellor know.  Counsellors should work at your pace so most should be fine with that.
Photo by Sammie Vasquez on Unsplash

Counselling can be about exploring uncomfortable feelings in a safe way.  It is often a life changing experience but requires taking a leap of faith.  I have never met a client who regretted the therapy they had.  A recent BACP survey* found 76% of people who had therapy would recommend it to a friend or family member and 88% of those surveyed said they would seek counselling for a problem before it got out of hand.

 We live in a time where we are encouraged to participate in self-care – to eat healthily, to take exercise, to spend time on things which help us recharge, all to help our physical and emotional well-being.  Why not participate in some counselling to explore the things that unsettle us?  In my opinion, it is the ultimate in self-care.

*More information on the BACP survey can be found on their website www.bacp.co.uk