Challenging the Stigma of Counseling
“Counseling is for weak minded people who can’t properly manage their lives.”
“Adults accept life’s hardships, handle them and move on.”
“Counseling is for crazy people.”
If you’ve ever shared with someone that you were considering entering counseling in an attempt to help yourself, or a troubled relationship, you’ve probably heard one (or more) of the statements above. The statements criticize a valuable, and in some cases, lifesaving endeavor.
Reaching out to a licensed counseling professional for help is a healthy way to begin the process of recovery: finding peace of mind, building self-confidence and learning to live life without regret. Regrets haunt all of us at times and paralyze us emotionally preventing us from following our dreams and attaining our goals. Trained mental health professionals are un-opinionated listeners who facilitate open and honest conversation with an emphasis on protecting the dignity of those who seek assistance.
The first challenge lies in making the decision to openly discuss your most intimate feelings. Being honest with yourself and your counselor is critical to the success of the process. The second challenge is remaining dedicated and believing your effort will reveal truths and enable healing.
Entering counseling as a couple can be more challenging. The partner who is less enthusiastic about attending the sessions may feel as if they are being blamed for the state of the relationship. It is important to speak with your partner before attending counseling. Discuss what you both wish to get out of it, and what the purpose is. Keep in mind that the counseling process is not focused on identifying who is good and who is bad, but rather how the relationship can endure and become what you had hoped it would be from the beginning. Counseling may also reveal to both parties that it would benefit both to end the relationship without feeling that it failed.
Attend counseling with an open mind and be forthcoming and honest in your communication. Realize that there is no time limit for the completion of counseling sessions. Some people attend counseling for a week, others for years and still others seek counseling when they need to work on specific issues. Regardless of the time attended, know that the length of time does not dictate how “normal” you or your relationship is. Rather, it shows how much your life means to you.