Myth #1: Counseling is only for severe issues, “crazy people”, diagnosed mental illness, or couples on the brink of divorce.
While counseling is beneficial to those facing a crisis or critical issue, these are not requirements to seek out counseling services. In fact, I often hear clients say they wish they had started counseling much sooner. Counseling is beneficial for a number of reasons beyond a current trial filled season or chronic issue and can be a proactive intervention to prevent potential issues from emerging in the future. This kind of counseling experience may be described as primary prevention or maintenance. The purpose of maintenance can be any combination of the following: increase self-awareness, develop more effective coping mechanisms, conflict resolution, more effective communication, increase relationship satisfaction, personal growth, and more.
Myth #2: Prayer and the strength of one’s faith can and should be the only place to seek healing and can effectively replace a counseling experience.
If your faith is a part of your worldview you may have been told in so many words that “More prayer and a stronger faith is all you should need to overcome a particular problem or circumstance.” If you have heard this message you may feel shame for seeking help outside of the church. However, we know that God is not a God of shame. It’s crucial to debunk this myth and provide hope that a combination of faith and counseling is possible. Just as Jesus uses the hands of surgeons to heal the body, Jesus speaks through counseling professionals to heal emotional wounds. Prayer is powerful. A counseling experience with a trained, empathetic professional is powerful. Both utilized together can propel one toward healing.
Myth #3: Counseling is for the weak
Actually the opposite is true. Seeking out counseling requires a certain amount of courage to initiate change. In all effective counseling encounters vulnerability is present. With vulnerability is the presence of bravery and the strength to share one’s truth.
Myth #4: Counselors are advice givers
Often the purpose of counseling is to facilitate greater awareness of where a solution resides within the client. Counselors operate as fellow travelers on the journey toward client goals rather than all knowing experts. When clients can independently (with encouragement, guidance, and support) claim victory over an issue, they are more empowered to tackle a future trial.
Myth #5: Counselors and the counseling experience are accurately depicted in the media
Films and television shows frequently display counselors as inappropriately involved with clients outside of a professional relationship. Counselors are bound to ethical and legal codes of conduct. Unfortunately, violations to these codes do exist, but not to the exaggerated degree shown in the media. The counseling experience is often shown with an individual laying on a couch while a counselor passively engages with the individual and authoritatively writes on a notepad. In true counseling experiences, most environments are warm and welcoming with an actively present counselor. Clients are free to make themselves comfortable (I’ve had a client take shoes off before starting a session), but laying down on a couch is not required or expected.
Thank you for reading! I hope these were helpful. Please see continued post for myths 6-10.