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Should I See a Counselor?

You should see a counselor!” or “You’re crazy! You should see a psychiatrist!” are not the phrases you want to hear from your mom, dad, sister, brother or friend. Often times we hear phrases like these in the middle of arguments or times of high stress. What we forget to understand is that these coarse words may actually inhibit a loved one from seeking help they may actually need. So what can we do differently to help our loved ones?

The first thing we need to do is STOP! In moments of high conflict we often say things we don’t necessarily mean. We are all guilty of it. We often say things to get someone’s attention or we try to “win” the argument. There are a few things to consider however. Arguments can actually be a healthy process. If a married couple never argues then there is probably someone biting their tongue the entire time. Each of us is different and holds different opinions, ideas and values, so there is bound to be conflict when spending so much time together. The important thing is to try not to say things that may inflict harm on someone you love.

You need a psychiatrist!” has been used in many conflicts throughout my own life. It was always a part of demeaning someone or making them feel like they were actually crazy. However, with its vitriol, this phrase has had a negative impact in the view of mental health research. Automatically, we start drawing conclusions that something is severely wrong with us if we go see a counselor. A greater fear is that we think that we actually are crazy! This could actually be  far from the truth but hearing this repeatedly my make you avoid getting things checked out all-together. We need a new way of thinking, a new mindset! Actress, Glenn Close is quoted as saying, “What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor and more unashamed conversation.”

The first step is to stop assuming we are crazy just because someone tells us we are.  We can’t continue to beat ourselves up and believe in the words that were spoken over us. Our new mindset begins with re-writing our own stories and taking the next step in our lives. This is the first phase of counseling, the revelation of having the power to make an effective change in our own lives. So be encouraged, counseling always begins with you, right where you’re at.

Of course it can be a scary thing to open up and start sharing about the intimate details of your life. But remember, the counselor is there to help you be a better you. You are in control of picking the counselor, how long you want to see the counselor, what to talk about, what NOT to talk about, and if you’ll even like your counselor. Some of you may find this process a bit difficult. You have never met this person, but you want to see them. You’re not sure what to talk about, but you know for sure what you don’t want to talk about, and you want to know if you’ll even like them or the counseling process. Sounds kind of like a blind date doesn’t it?  Rest assured, that once you start talking to your counselor that you’re in control. There is freedom in knowing that your counselor will only know what you share with them. So relax, this process is really in your control.

Now some of you may still have some hesitations. You may be wondering, what if my counselor starts asking me questions that make me feel uncomfortable? This is certainly a reality. However, you must remember that this person is a complete stranger to you. It is someone you don’t ever have to see again if you don’t want to! Counseling is your choice; remember? So let’s give your counselor a chance, maybe they’ll see something within your story that you may have overlooked?

So there you are, sitting on the couch, with the counselor in front of you. Yes, you may be a bit nervous, but it’s okay, the session only lasts a little less than an hour. You take a breath, introduce yourself and the counselor begins by sharing a little about themselves. They tell a small story about their background, crack a joke, you smile and somehow you’re quite comfortable. But you remember that you don’t want to fall for any of their “tricks,” so you still have some reservations. STOP! Remember, you are in control of this counseling process, you have the ability to stop whenever you’d like, so let’s give them a chance.

By the end of the first session, you are wondering where the time has gone and that you had barely shared the reason why you had come. It’s ok, the counselor shares with you that this process takes time. You smile and as you leave, you feel encouraged; you know there is much more to share and wonder what may happen in the next session.

One week flies by and there you are again, sitting on the couch. You remember the counselor’s face and how comfortable the cushions are. You relax and he or she begins to ask you about your childhood. You wonder why they ask such a silly question but you go on anyway. You start reminiscing about memories of going on vacations together and how annoying your little brother was. You hesitate to share all the details but the counselor is starting to learn more about you. They ask a few more questions about mom and dad but you don’t share everything yet you do share enough of what  leads them to believe that there is more digging to do. You remember why you’re here and that you came for help. You understand that there are some fears you have and that sharing them may hurt. Your hands start to sweat and you feel like leaving but something about this process feels safe, so you begin to share. This is counseling.

Each of us may have hesitations about seeing a counselor for help but that’s ok. The key things to remember about counseling is that:

  1. Counseling begins with you; you are in control.
  2. Counselors have comfy couches.
  3. You may actually like your counselor!
  4. It is a safe space.
  5. You have the power to change your story!

Counseling is known as the helping profession. It is the process in which you and your counselor make an exchange. The counselor is trained to take the stories you share and reorders them to help narrate the chapters of your life. The counselor works as your guide but it is you who puts the pen to the pages. It is you who has the power to write the next best chapter!

John May

Intern from Liberty

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