Myth Busting-Counselling Myths and Misconceptions

The truth is counselling is purely about having time devoted to helping yourself, for whatever reason, it is about self -care.

I remember when I was first told that I would benefit from counselling, I was 19 years old during the early 90’s and had just moved away to university. I was incredibly homesick and was feeling down and after a visit to the GP it was suggested that I see a therapist. I remember thinking to myself  ‘why do I  need counselling I have lots of friends and family to talk too’ and ‘that counselling is only for people with mental illness’, ‘why do I want to talk to a stranger’. We all have misconceptions and pre-conceived ideas. 

This was a time when mental health wasn’t in the public domain and it certainly wasn’t something that was discussed as freely as it is today, so with this in mind I am going to try and break down the myths and pre-conceived ideas that I had and that you might have around counselling.

It’s easier to talk to friends and family about my problems.

There is a common belief that seeking the support of your friends and family is just as good as getting professional counselling. But while being able to share your problems with your friends and family is obviously helpful, it is very different from the relationship with a trained counsellor who has specialist skills in exploring and treating a range of cognitive, behavioural and emotional issues. What’s more, counselling is confidential, meaning you don’t have to take the feelings of your loved ones into account when you speak. This is something that I personally found invaluable!

Counselling is only for people with serious mental health issues.

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Many people believe that in order to see a counsellor, you need to have a psychological disorder or be seriously mentally ill, of course the reality is entirely different. Counselling can be beneficial for everyone. Whether you seek support for everyday matters such as stress management or relationship issues, mental health challenges like depression, or life events such as a bereavement, counsellors are expertly trained to help people with a wide range of concerns. There are lots of reasons speople choose counselling, it is a very positive step to take.

I have found in my client work that some people just need a few sessions to gain clarity about a specific issues, and for other counselling can take a lot longer, but it is always driven by the client’s needs. 

Going to a counsellor is a sign of weakness.

The reality is sometimes we think strength is about keeping everything in and not being effected by difficulties, it’s a very British way to “man up and get on with it’ However I believe that it shows enormous strength to face your problems and try to improve ourselves and our lives. Counselling is a positive step towards helping yourself, and it is all about self care. 

The counsellor will tell me what to do.

Professional counsellors do not give advice. I may give you information, but don’t expect me to say whether I think you should do A or B. It is my job to help you explore issues, so you can make up your own mind about what you choose to do. You know yourself and your stuff better than anyone else, and you know what’s best for you, its’ my job to help you discover that.

And my personal favourite myth…I will have to lie on a couch.

Thanks to countless cartoons, TV programmes and movies a lot of us wrongly believe that a counselling session involves lying down on a couch, staring at the ceiling!

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Counselling is an active process that requires the client to be just as engaged as the counsellor and for the client to commit they need to be involved in the process.  Sitting in a comfortable chair or on a sofa is a more appropriate position and is adopted by the vast majority of clients, and the counsellor will typically sit opposite their client in a similar way. I have worked in many different settings, school offices, doctors surgery’s, therapy rooms and even in clients own homes. Where ever you are it is important that you feel comfortable and if you are not, just say so to the counsellor!

The key for me is that you need to feel comfortable with whichever counsellor you choose as it’s the quality of the relationship you have that is important – all counsellors are different and have different personalities, styles and approaches.

So don’t let myths about counselling prevent you from getting help!