Bursting the bubble of about counseling

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There are several myths about counseling in our society today. Although at times we come face to face with those myths and ideas, we seldom take the time to challenge or dialogue with them, thereby debunking and discounting the whole idea of counseling and its effects.  When a huge need for counseling arises, it is important to address, clarify and combat some of the common ones so that an informed decision can be made about seeking counseling. Let’s debunk and dispel those myths that hinder our growth and well- being.

Myth #1: Counseling is for ‘crazy’ or ‘weak’ people.

Reality:  Sadly, this is a common mindset that still circulates today. Surprisingly, this idea is still prominent even among the advanced and highly educated audience. Imagine that you have fever and body ache. What would it be like to have a stigma around your fever that every time you tell others about your sickness, they make fun of you and label you crazy or call you weak? What if people around you tell you to be strong, hang in there because this pain will go away in time and that doctors are for bigger problems?

I am sure that despite the many voices telling you otherwise, you will hush these opinions and choose to go to a doctor at least to get the problem checked out or because the pain is unbearable and the situation limits your functionality. Any person in their right mind would immediately address the issue of physical aches and pains to get on the right course of healing.  

Counseling is very much the same way, and most people who come in for counseling are very much ‘normal’, intelligent, smart and talented. Life brings on stressors, problems, and heartaches that weigh us down. Those stressors will invariably have a positive or a negative impact on us.

No matter what you are faced with, counseling is definitely not for the weak, but for those who are strong—strong enough to be open, honest and brave about their struggles and the everyday giants they face, however small or gigantic the struggles may be. Counseling is for those who have the courage to face and turn their mundane, ordinary life into lives brimming with creativity and fruitfulness. 

Myth #2: Counseling is only for severe problems.

Reality: Who decides if the problem is ‘severe,’ ‘little’ or ‘big?’ Often, we have no inkling of how a problem could affect us. We are all uniquely and intricately made, and we react to different things differently. What might be stressful for one person might not be so for another. Of course, counseling can be helpful for severe problems, but sometimes we make the mistake of waiting it out until the problem get severe and is brewing over to other areas of life, destroying relationships, friendships and functionality. Why wait until problems have become huge mountains? Why not nip them off at the bud? It is always helpful to change and address an issue right when it is brewing in our minds rather than when it is spilling over to different areas of our lives.

Myth #3: What goes on in the family should stay in the family rather than seeking help from a stranger. 

Reality: It is indeed beautiful when a family protects and supports its members when they are faced with life’s many challenges and worries.  However, many times although families try their level best to keep it together, they sometimes fail to cater to the needs of every member of the family objectively. Sometimes problems can be so intimidating or overwhelming that it is hard to see a way out. When families get caught up and soaked in problems, every member may be affected in different ways. Often blind spots are overlooked, individual desires are compromised, and objective and unbiased decisions are not made. As a result, families may give into unhealthy patterns of coping and deeper dissatisfaction.

Trained family counselors can come alongside and listen to various different perspectives of family members. They can also challenge irrational thoughts and behaviors, and can help family members understand themselves and their situations better by employing different techniques and methods fit for individual needs. 

Fears about whether a counselor who is a stranger will be of any help are quietened when care and guidance is offered in a non-threatening, respectful, empathetic and confidential way. And over time, as time progresses and as the rapport is established, you will grow to be more comfortable with your counselor.

Myth #4: Counselors will interrogate, dig into my past, shame and blame me.

Reality: There are many therapies and therapists who are out there, and not all of them are worth seeing. However, a good counselor will essentially never shame or blame, but rather will help clients explore their reasons for certain feelings, actions and outcomes in a non-judgmental way. Often clients come with various issues that pop up repeatedly and could result from unresolved issues in one’s past. Good and efficient counselors are able to work alongside the client to address those issues at a comfortable pace agreeable to the client.

Myth # 5: Counselors give advice, offer quick fixes and have answers to all our problems.

Reality: Counseling is a therapeutic process and never a quick fix or advice giving. Rest assured, your counselor will not have all the answers to your questions either. Each of our journeys and experiences are different and unique. In order for any kind of change to happen, it takes time, effort and commitment. Every session is a working session for both clients and counselors alike.  Counselors are trained to identify unhealthy and disruptive patterns, explore options and alternatives, make analysis, and help clients navigate through their fears, questions, and struggles. Depending on the lethality, severity and dysfunctionality, sometimes, counseling can be directive, but it is aimed at empowering an individual to make his or her own choices to live unabashedly, creatively and productively. Counselors prefer to empower rather than overpower their clients or curtail them from making their own choices to find healing. Breakthroughs happen when clients are patient and compassionate to themselves, allow themselves to feel the pain, and work patiently towards recovery with their therapist.

Myth # 6: Counseling will ‘fix’ my partner and my relationship.

Reality: As hard as it is to take in, counseling is not about ‘fixing’ your partner, but rather working towards making the marriage purposeful, joyful and fruitful. We sometimes feel that it is the other person who needs to change and if only they could get their act together, things would be much smoother and life would be happier.

 It is hard for us to look within ourselves to even admit that we, too, are a work in progress. It is much easier to blame, correct and insist on changing others than focus on changing ourselves. Counselors will help you see your relationship in a new way and enable you to work toward greater change and togetherness with your partner, but this can only happen with your willingness and efforts to change yourself first. Counseling is only as effective as the client’s willingness to blossom.

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”     – Anais Nin.

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