Myths About Counseling

Myth: I will have to lie on a leather sofa and tell all my darkest secrets to a stranger

Truth: For most people who have not tried counseling before, this is often an image that comes to mind. Now it is true, some counselors have leather sofas. I suppose it is up to you if you lie down on it or not. As far as Journey Clinical Services goes, it is completely up to you where you sit, because you will be at your home, or anywhere else you choose. As far as asking or requiring you to share all your dark secrets to a stranger, that is not the objective of counseling at all. The objective of counseling is to work on your goals and to provide a safe and supportive place for you to be able to achieve your goals. It takes time to establish trust and rapport with the counselor. Oftentimes the first few sessions are spent doing just that, the counselor building your trust through seeking to know you and building a foundation of understanding. A counselor knows that trust is absolutely required for a client to have a transformative experience and counseling cannot be truly effective if the client does not have absolute trust in the counselor. Sometimes reaching goals does involve talking about difficult things, but you decide what you are comfortable with and your emotional well-being is being continually assessed. A counselor should NEVER process a difficult issue with you if they do not also have time to ensure you are feeling emotionally safe and stable to leave the session. Everyone has secrets of sorts, and difficult things in life but honestly, they are just not all relevant to your counseling experience. We focus on you and what you want to get out of counseling, and certainly uncover some things in that process, but it is at your pace and comfort level. 

Myth: Only crazy people go to therapy. 

Truth: Therapy is for everyone and besides we do not use the word “crazy” anymore, unless you are talking about my child’s hair in the morning. Therapy or counseling, whichever you prefer to call it, is simply healthcare for our minds. No one bats an eye at anyone for getting a physical, going to the doctor for a cold, yet for some reason we still raise an eye brow when we find out someone is in counseling, or we feel weak to admit we probably ought to go ourselves. This is a soapbox I could stand on all day long, but instead I will sit here and write about. Therapy is a useful, clinically proven method of helping us deal with past and current life circumstances in order to live full and content lives. Do we necessarily HAVE to go to therapy to live full and content lives? No.  Is it very beneficial sometimes? Absolutely. Counseling is a great way to carve out space for ourselves and the things we want to work on in our own lives. We can spend hours perusing websites on how to work on relationships throughout our lives, or we can invest a handful of hours working directly with a therapist to learn insight to ourselves and new ways of thinking and relating to others to improve our relationships. Counseling is for everyone at different times. If we live long enough, we will experience some stress, some trauma, some way in which our own coping skills have reached their maximum capacity. These are the times we can really benefit from the supportive, unbiased relationship with a counselor and the skills they can introduce. 

Myth: If I prayed more, loved Jesus more, had more faith, _________more, I wouldn’t need counseling. 

Living in Alabama, considered part of the “Bible belt” I hear this one a lot. I am a Christian and believe that Jesus Christ is Lord and He alone is capable of saving me and He alone gives purpose and meaning to our lives. And I have been in counseling at different times over the years. This myth saddens me in particular because I think it is at the root of why one person commits suicide every 16 minutes; because it makes people who are already struggling feel like they cannot even seek help because they feel it is further proof of their insufficiencies. Nothing could be further from the truth and we must do everything we can to eradicate this myth from every circle. Does anyone tell a person with cancer they need more faith or should just pray more rather than seek treatment from an oncologist? Does that reflect a lack of faith in God because they choose to seek treatment instead of SOLELY relying on God to heal them? Certainly not. And yet, with mental health issues, people tend to take the stance that if they prayed more, or read the Bible more, all their problems would go away. The need or desire for counseling in no way implies a lack of faith, or a lack of fellowship with God. All throughout the Bible are stories of people who sought counsel from others AND were people who loved the Lord. The reality is because of God, and the way He has designed us, we all have a need for connection and significance. He has made us all for a purpose, which is ultimately to glorify Him. It is the bravest thing someone can do to reach out for help-whatever the thing that ails them-to take a first step toward fighting cancer and getting chemo, or a first step to healthier emotional wellbeing by making a counseling appointment. Acknowledging the need for help displays faith that there is hope-and hope always points Jesus Christ.

Myth: Counseling is just a bunch of talking –I have friends for that

Truth: Counseling obviously involves a lot of talking. But there is a lot more to it than that. It depends on the issue at hand, but it can involve concrete education and learning. It involves practical exercises to do at home to continue learning and progress in between sessions. It can involve activities in the session that are designed to get you thinking about things in new ways. It can involve writing and exercises and experiences all designed to help you. It always involves unbiased and non-judgmental listening and dialogue. The focus is always on you. The counselor does not tell you what you want to hear, but rather what will get you to where you want to be. They will know when to challenge you and when you need to be coddled a bit. It is literally their job to know you and how to help you. Friends are fantastic and much needed. To say you do not need a counselor because you have friends is like saying you do not need friends because you have a counselor. You always need friends; and sometimes you need a counselor too. We can benefit from the confidentiality and the unbiased perspective our counselor offers. 

Myth: I don’t need/want/like medications so I don’t need to see a counselor.

Truth: Counselors or therapists do not prescribe medications. You must be an MD or a nurse practitioner to prescribe medications. Anyone with LCSW, LICSW, LPC, LMFT or PhD after their name is not someone who can prescribes medications. I can refer to psychiatrists based on your particular needs and situation.

Posted by Sarah Pendleton at 3:24 PM