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Counselling Myths

Many people are curious about what a counselling session entails, or think that maybe they could benefit from speaking to someone confidentially but don't go through with it due to misconceptions about the process. Indeed, the stigma attached to therapy can hinder some from telling friends and family that they're seeing a counsellor thereby keeping the practice further shrouded in mystery. As a practising counsellor and training psychologist, and as someone who has greatly benefitted from therapy myself and witnessed countless others' mental health improve from seeing a professional, I find this both frustrating and unnecessary.

I would like to use this post to discuss some of these common misconceptions and hopefully lay them to rest.

"If I discuss my issues I'll just make them bigger"

On the contrary, getting the subjective guidance of a counsellor can provide insights that aren't distorted by emotions. They're not 'in' the problem, nor are they going to be affected by any action you have or will take. There is no personal investment in your situation other than to help guide you out of your discomfort.

Voicing your concerns out loud - without a filter - can help organise your thoughts and help get to the root cause. Indeed, empirical research has scientifically proven therapy to aid mental health. Some people discover a greater confidence after experiencing opening up, and that their world hasn't collapsed after all.

Not only do they receive acceptance from their counsellor but they begin to accept themselves too. In turn, this has a positive ripple effect on their relationships, because it is only when we accept ourselves as fully integrated personalities that we can begin to truly accept other people as they are.

I lie on a couch and the therapist is going to tell me I have a thing for my mum right?

Erm ... not really. This trope has been heavily depicted on screen and jumps to one's mind when we think of therapy and it IS true that psychoanalysis has been a popular mode of therapy historically. However, this methodology has come a long way since its development by Freud.

Nowadays, most therapists don't put themselves in the same omniscient 'expert' role. Instead, a therapeutic relationship based on respect and positive regard is considered optimal. The client and counsellor work together to explore topics rather than the counsellor diagnosing or prescribing action.

My issues aren't 'bad' enough

Mental health isn't something that appears when it goes wrong; just like physical fitness, the more effort put into it the more optimal it will be. Think about seeing a professional in the same way you take your car for its' MOT, check the oil, put petrol in it regularly; you do all these things routinely when the car is performing perfectly well and you do this so you don't break down on the motorway in the middle of rush hour. Attending therapy when you feel ok keeps us mentally fit and better able to cope when inevitably tough stuff shows up.

Secondly, who gets to define what 'bad enough' is anyway?? Something that knocks me for six you might take in your stride and vice versa. It's all relative and our individual combination of nurture and life experiences will determine our unique reaction to any given situation.

If I go to therapy, people will think I'm weak

This one really makes me cross. Which people? Let me know and I will round them up and lecture them (possibly while brandishing a stick threateningly) that being open, honest and vulnerable is possibly one of the bravest and most noble things a human being can do. Hiding how you really feel is how society has programmed us, we pretend we're ok to make other people comfortable.

Unveiling your authentic self is .... well it's pretty wow to be honest. And you know what the real kicker is? Most people will actually feel really really similar to you! Everyone is covering up and performing these puppet characters that they think is expected of them and ironically underneath they're all harbouring these same squishy real feelings. It's not weak its NORMAL.

It's ok, I talk to my mates all the time

Unfortunately, this is quite a common misconception and it's very understandable, after all, our friends have always been there in good times and bad, they truly know us right?

However, friends lack that subjective view that I was talking about earlier; they want you to feel better so that they have fulfilled their role as a 'good friend' and will usually say anything until they hit on the thing that seems to do the trick, but this might just be a plaster on the underlying issue.

Also, they can only provide suggestions from their personal experience and may be prone to make unhelpful comparisons or draw erroneous conclusions since they're looking at the problem through their own subjective lens.

These have just been the first few common myths that sprang to mind when I thought about writing this post. I hope to have dispelled some misconceptions and I'm sure more will follow in the future!

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