Why would I go to counseling? I mean… I’m fine.

It seems pretty obvious to have a blog post about why counseling can be helpful on a counselor’s website. But sometimes the most obvious things are most often overlooked and so I wanted to slow down a bit and take a minute and talk about this. We live in a culture today where busyness is prized and intentional self-care is seen as selfish, or at the best, not the noblest use of our time.  Self-care can happen in a lot of ways-many we have heard about for years: exercise, eating good, getting good sleep. When is the last time you have seen “counseling” on a list of suggestions for self-care? I can't think of a time either. We go about our lives thinking, “I mean, I’m fine.” People ask us how we are, and we respond, “I’m fine.” We have this internal dialogue of all the reasons we are “fine”…or should be ”fine”…but…there is something lacking. Something missing. We have good, fulfilling-enough lives filled with careers we tolerate well enough, family that gets along well enough (at least others think so), we are healthy enough, have relatively enough stuff…and yet, it just does not seem like enough. And not in the materialistic sense of the word. As in “there has got to be something more to me…to this life…to my marriage…to raising kids…to my career” sort of enough. The longing, the knowledge of something more that is planted inside of us that will not be silenced, no matter how much we have told it to hush and be fine with “fine.” Counseling is the roadmap to more. Even if you are “fine,” these are some reasons to consider counseling, because, afterall, we are meant for more than “fine”:

  1. Going to counseling does not mean you are not fine. It means you want better than fine. It means that you are responding to that urging in your heart that says, “This is OK, but you were meant for more.” We push it aside, demoting ourselves and our place in this world when we do. Through counseling we can take a journey to wholeness and fulfillment that used to feel out of reach. Counseling gives us a dedicated time and a dedicated place to work through tough emotions and experiences that frankly, we don’t have the time or emotional energy to deal with in our day to day lives. It gives us space to talk about the hard things and the support to know we will not walk through them alone. It gives us the tools to make changes to longstanding ways of thinking and acting which can profoundly impact our relationships and our views of ourselves and the world. 
  2. Counseling is confidential in a world where everyone’s business is everyone’s business. The age of social media has thrust us into a world where nearly nothing is private. 
  • The birth of children: a celebration highlighted by a 45 picture album on facebook within moments of the birth
  • Vacation of a lifetime: day by day photo journey on Instagram of all the things you did and saw
  • Your son hitting his first homerun: documented on Instagram and put on youtube for family viewing
  • Our kids potty training, our fiance’s proposal, the death of our parent, our friend’s sudden illness

Nothing is private anymore. I am not taking a position on social media and whether it is good or bad, but I am simply stating a fact-there is little that is personal or private anymore. AND YET, research tells us that people feel more isolated and alone than ever. Why? Because a lot of people know a lot of THINGS about us, but few i people actually know US.  Counseling can bring an authentic and genuine relationship to our lives that results in us being fully known and fully accepted. Counseling provides a place and the relationship that is deeply personal, yet objective and highly confidential so that you can talk about things that you do not post on social media. Just because nothing seems private anymore does not mean that we do not have things are very private and personal that we need a safe place to talk about those things and their impact in our lives. 

  1. Through counseling you spend dedicated time focusing on YOU. To really talk about you. Just sit and think about it for a minute. When is the last time you talked about you? Not about an issue in your life, not about something going on at work, or something your child did. But actually about you. Your past. Your experiences, your expertise, your perspective. If you are like most people, rarely do we actually talk about ourselves. We skim the surface of our lives in conversation. Skimming the surface will never lead to growth and self-awareness. Examining ourselves and our experiences and our perspectives is how we begin to grow into the person we want to be and have the relationships we want to have.   Talking about you is not selfish; it is fundamental to growth and change. 
  2. Counseling gives us a chance to learn about ourselves. Curiosity is a great trait and I submit that we would all be a bit better off if we were more curious about ourselves.  In college, I went to counseling because I did not have a hobby. I was in graduate school for social work at the time, and I had started interviewing for internships and jobs and the usual topic of “what do you do for fun?” or “what are you hobbies?” would inevitably come up. It bothered me so much I could not respond with “Golf” or “running ultramarathons.” Truth was, I pretty much enjoyed doing most anything, well, except for golf or running ultramarathons. So like any good new social worker, I was all about self-discovery and learning myself so I went to the counselor’s office, sat on her couch and when she asked, “so what brings you in today?” I told her it bothered me I didnt have any "hobbies." I came out of that experience with something better than a discrete list of hobbies: I came away with a clearer understanding of myself and this thing that bothered me didn't bother me anymore. This may seem small and insignificant to some, but that’s the beauty of counseling. It’s about YOU and what bothers you.  If it matters to you, it matters.  Always keep learning, especially about yourself.

  There is no “wrong” reason to go to counseling and it’s up to you the amount of time and money you invest. But ultimately, if we will not first invest in ourselves, how do we invest in the lives of others?  There is better than “fine” and I hope you do everything you can to find it. If any of this resonates with you, please contact me  or any number of great therapists in the area. 

Posted by Sarah Pendleton at 3:29 PM