Counselling is for people with serious mental illness
Stigma attached to counselling stems from the idea that therapy is only for people with mental health issues and psychological disorders. However, counselling is for everyone.
Many people seek support for everyday matters like anxiety, stress, relationship issues, bereavement or life changes. Counsellors support clients across a range of concerns, from more serious mental health challenges like depression to common issues like fatigue and burnout.
Counselling can also be preventative – seeking help early for something that’s bothering you can stop it from developing into a major problem later on.
I don’t need a counsellor – I can talk to friends and family
There is a pervasive belief that the support of friends and family can substitute for professional counselling.
While social support is certainly important for everyone, counselling is very different from the relationships you have with your friends and family. A counsellor is a trained professional who has specialist skills in supporting a range of cognitive, emotional and behavioural issues. Counselling is also completely confidential. This means that you can speak freely, without needing to censor yourself the way you might with family and friends.
Counselling is just endlessly talking about my childhood
A very common misconception about counselling is that clients spend their sessions rehashing the past, with a focus on their childhood and relationship to their parents.
Counselling is tailored to meet your needs. For some people, it can be immensely helpful to explore the ways their previous relationships with family members, friends and partners are impacting their current reality.
For others, what is happening in the present moment is of utmost importance as a guide to future decisions and pathways. Counselling is a dynamic process, with a range of approaches to resolving concerns and achieving desired outcomes. Your counsellor will discuss your needs and customise sessions to suit your unique personal situation.
Counselling is expensive and takes forever
Many people believe that counselling is just extravagant common sense, and that if they start counselling they’ll be attending for years to come. In some cases this is true, but in many others it is not. Some people dip in and out over several years, some feel that 1 - 6 sessions is plenty.
The goal of counselling is to help people effectively manage life’s challenges. Some people only need a few sessions to resolve their concerns, whilst other people may benefit from a few months of intensive support.
I tried counselling once and it didn’t work. Counselling isn’t for me
People who have one bad experience with counselling assume that all counsellors will be the same.
Just because counselling with one person didn’t work, doesn’t mean that counselling isn’t for you. Finding the right counsellor is like finding a good GP or the right gym. Unfortunately the majority of us have had experiences with healthcare where there’s been a personality clash, or we haven’t received an appropriate level of care. Or the gym just was too posey or the PT instructor was too arrogant.
Whenever that happens, it’s important to seek a second opinion. There are thousands of counsellors in practice – one of them will be a good fit for you and your needs. The ‘therapeutic alliance’, or relationship between you and your counsellor, is at the core of successful counselling.
Trust, respect, and working together towards a common goal are the hallmarks of a strong therapeutic alliance, which is one of the most reliable predictors of positive counselling outcomes.
It’s worth spending some time finding the right counsellor for you.