Of course we know what Counseling and Therapy is...right? That's why we end up making fun of people who may need help at some point. That's why, we conveniently put our guards up when someone says we might need help. I mean we have to be 'mad', 'crazy', 'unstable', 'psycho' to get help. 'Normal' people don't need help. They are almost like superheros- can handle everything-anytime-anywhere. If that was the case, the concept of therapy wouldn't have existed at all.
But the fact is, that therapy and counseling exist and that too as a profession. There are people who spend a major chunk of their lives studying to become therapists. It's not because they couldn't find anything to do. Rather, they are doing this, because they realise the importance of well-being and they want to help as many people as possible in leading a good quality life.
Life is moving so fast that we don't even realize that we are getting caught up in a web. A web consisting of demands, commitments, responsibilities; and a multitude of events that constitute our daily routine. Without any conscious effort, we start hoarding of a lot of unwanted and unwelcome thoughts, emotions and actions. These in turn, give rise to many pertinent issues like stress, anxiety, sleeplessness and mood swings, aches and pains and many other health issues. These days, health issues are almost becoming our second nature. We all are aware of this fact. Yet, reluctant to change it.
And for some strange reason, we find it easier to take medicines than to actually make the effort of solving our problems. Yes, times have changed and more and more we are realising the importance of this profession called ‘Counselling’.
However, we all still operate under some fundamental misconceptions about it. Here are some common facts and myths about Counselling that we all must know. So that, if and when the need arises, we can make an informed choice of approaching a counselor and seeking help.
Mental health is as important as physical health for our well-being: When things don’t go our way, it’s very natural to go through a gamut of negative emotions. However, a healthy mental condition allows us to evaluate our situations and problems objectively and enables effective problem-solving and decision making. Sometimes, prolonged or severe acute stressors can create a whirlpool within us. Thus, giving rise to sleep difficulty, anxiety, excessive anger, irritation etc. When we find ourselves unable to handle our daily functioning effectively, it is an indication that we need help. It is the same as going to a doctor when we experience some physical symptoms.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be ‘mad’ to seek counselling or therapy: Counselors function much like doctors-they listen to your symptoms,diagnose what the problem and the source is. But instead of giving medicines, they help us to explore the issues from different perspectives, until we arrive at a feasible solution. You can be stressed or anxious over your job, family issues, relationship problems, emotional set backs etc. and you can still seek the help of a counselor, who is trained to help you cope better.
Counselling does not make you ‘weak’: Going to a Counselor, discussing your issues and inner most feelings does not certify one as ‘weak’!If anything it does, is widen our thought process to include different understandings of a particular event. It enables us to vent out our emotions. This is can be termed as ‘emotional cleansing’ or ‘catharsis’ which makes us feel relaxed. But, the most important thing it does, is to ‘empower’ us so that we can handle our thoughts, emotions and actions better.
Talking to friends and family members is not a substitute to Counselling : Yes, we must share our thoughts and emotions with our loved ones. We all have that one person who is our best friend, our confidante. Yet, when going through a difficult phase (internally or externally), sometimes it’s not enough. Simply, because when we talk to people close to us, we are listening to their opinions, ideas and judgments. Sometimes, a situation demands much more than just an opinion. What works for one person, may not work for someone else. Situations and problems require an objective, unbiased view of what’s going on and the possible solutions available. Someone may be losing sleep over an irrational fear of something, while someone may be anxious about a future occurrence. A counselor is a trained professional, who helps you to objectively evaluate and solve an issue because the solution lies within us.
What if other people find out?: Well, Counselling is based on mutual trust and confidentiality. As an ethical practice, counselors do not discuss client’s information with other people. It is only in special cases where there is a potential risk involved, that a Counselor will feel the need to inform other relevant people.
How can I talk to a stranger?: Wasn't your best friend initially a stranger? The fact is, that most of our relations outside of our families, started off with a level of unfamiliarity. It is the unfamiliarity that creates space for objectivity and facilitates free-flow of thought. Doesn't it feel nice to just let your heart do the talking, without worrying about what the other person is thinking about us? In times like now, don’t we just want to be heard and not talked to all the time? Having an hour or two, just to ourselves..Isn't that what we all want?
Counselling is expensive!: So are all the luxury items that we spoil ourselves with! It may seem like the counselor does nothing except listen to our rants. But that is his /her actual job! He/She listens so that he can get an in-depth understanding of what’s going on within us. A counselor invests a lot of time and energy on every individual client. Thus, he/she charges the amount that he/she thinks is feasible.
Counselor only talks or listens and does nothing!: The fact of the matter is,that Counselors and therapists invest a lot of time and money in getting trained. It's a profession that requires interaction! And not just that, it employs many kinds of therapies and techniques. It's all about finding yourself, placing the pieces of this puzzle called life- together! And yes, he/she does listen! That's one of the ways to know what's going on inside us! And then, there are those times when always crib that 'we have no one who listens to us!'
Counselling is life-long: Well, if you end up establishing a good rapport, then why not! After all, we all have people whom we call our ‘guides’ or ‘mentors’ and they are there to guide us all along! But, Counseling involves a lot of time and effort from the Client and the Counselor. Depending on the nature of the issue and the need of the client, Counseling can be long term or short term.
Counselling does not provide you with tailor-made solutions or fixes!: It is a guided self-exploration process. And we all know, how complicated our inner and outer lives are! Just like we can get stressed over many things; there are many solutions to problems. Sometimes, it takes a long time to find the solution. Sometimes, it comes to us in a flash! The idea behind counselling is, to keep exploring, till we find the solution that fits best without losing our mind!
Counselling is magic!: Yes, it is! If, we have the will to work for our own betterment. Just by sitting in a Counselling session, our problems won’t vanish. It requires focus and commitment to our own self. Only then will the sessions be effective. Counselors, therapists can only guide us to a better life. They cannot live our lives for us.
The big question then is, when to approach a Counselor? The harsh reality is, that stress, anxiety, worry etc have all become intricately tied to our lives. We do manage to lead our versions of a normal life. However, when these issues begin to interfere in our daily functioning (unable to sleep well, anger, aggression, feeling low etc); when we are no longer able to cope with life's challenges and demands and need a reorientation; that's when we should seek help.
And yes, Counselor and Psychiatrist is not the same! A Psychiatrist is a doctor. He gives medicines. A counselor is a different person and approach altogether.
A little patience demanding and lengthy process in comparison. But, with long-term benefits! At the end of the day, Counseling, Therapy etc are professions - like all others!
It is not a taboo. Rather, it's a resource that we can use to improve and empower our lives!
Stay Healthy. Feel Good!