I have heard this question many times (usually at a point in the conversation before the questioner find out that *I* am a counsellor – it can get super awkward after they find out). Despite the awkwardness, it is a really valid question, and I have found (after dealing with the awkwardness with some cliché shrink joke) that underneath the question lies a far more complicated set of concerns. It seems what people are really asking is not….
“why on earth would I want see a counsellor?”
“I’m too scared/financially stretched/unsure of how they can help me,” to see a counsellor.
So in this post, I am going to do my best to honestly respond to these three deeper concerns.
Concern number one….yes, it is scary seeing a counsellor, anything new usually is, (especially when you are already feeling pretty average). Yet, I’ve noticed most of us are quite willing to front up to experiences that are scary or stressful in order to achieve something more for ourselves. Examples such as exams, oral presentations, surgery, or root canal come to mind. The reason for this difference in willingness seems to be that almost everybody knows what to expect when they enter an examination room, or a dentist’s room, but most people don’t know what to expect when they enter a counsellor’s room.
Thus, in the spirit of demystifying what happens in counselling – here’s roughly what to expect. You will be treated with kindness and respect. You will be asked questions that you are under no obligation to answer, you will be free to leave at any point, and you will have a conversation. A normal, everyday, conversation, not unlike what you might have when you visit your GP, your accountant, or the person selling you a car (notice I didn’t include dentist on that point about conversation – seriously, WHY do they initiate conversation when there’s stuff in your mouth???). Anyways… as I was saying counselling really is just a conversation, one that provides you with information, new ideas, and options; but a conversation none the less. That’s what to expect.
Concern number two…. financially stretched…. yeps I get this one, I really do; as a part time student, with part time employment, I absolutely appreciate the apprehension you might feel about forking out $80 for a “conversation” (especially when you can get a seriously great pair of shoes for around the same price and the shoes appear to last much MUCH longer than a 50 minute conversation). So all I can say to this very reasonable concern is that in most cases everyone who has spent money on counselling has found it very worthwhile and have been surprised at just HOW worthwhile it was. In short our job is help improve your quality of life, whatever the issue (and I won’t write out the list of all the issues we can help you with, that would be bragging); and quality of life is priceless. Imagine if you are lonely, struggling to make friends, hate your job, and just don’t seem to be able to quit drinking. If I suggested you could spend maybe $2400 dollars on counselling to replace your beer gut with meaningful relationships and a new career (one that will earn you 15% more than your current job just to sweeten the deal) would you consider that a good use of $2400? When the cost of counselling is framed in that way, most people say “yes it is a VERY good use of $2400”. And when it comes to even more long lasting aspects of the human condition, like having a relationship with your kids, saving your marriage, or in some instances even saving your life, several thousands of dollars are usually considered an investment with immeasurable returns.
Which brings me to concern number three. I have often heard it asked,
“Really, can counselling do all that [help with making friends, job, drinking, save lives?]. If I can’t solve this myself, what are counsellors going to say that I haven’t already thought of?”
This concern has two parts, which I will try to address simultaneously. Firstly, the answer YES! Yes counselling can do all that, we are a seriously awesome, talented, highly educated bunch (I guess I gave into the urge to brag). Now of course, I do suggest you check out a counsellor’s credentials and/or reputation before assuming they are awesome; because like any profession there are some less than average ones out there. But having said that, the counsellors in my sphere are super clever, as well as really caring. They love what they do, they are genuinely invested in their clients; and many have studied upwards of 10 years to learn how best to work with a diverse range of issues. Thus pointing to the second part or this concern; the notion that that humans should be able to solve emotional/relational/mental health issues without any professional assistance (yet we visit doctors for a cough, dentists for a toothache, and an accountant for our tax return?).
The human condition is a pretty complicated one, which is why everyone in our office has a master’s degree minimum, (except me, which is quite a sore point so let’s not go into that now). Some have studied counselling in various forms for literally decades and entire bookstores are dedicated to these topics simply because there is SO MUCH to learn about humans and relationships, and mental health, and getting better, and living well. Therefore how could any average person who has devoted their life to doing or studying something else (of equal importance), possibly have time to go and learn all the stuff they need to know to make their marriage work wonderfully, or to parent their really annoying teenager, or to stop overeating, or to not be anxious all the time? Nobody has that much time, and since (contrary to popular belief) we humans are not born spontaneously knowing how to deal with such challenges, the average person at some point in their life will find themselves in an emotional/relational/mental health situation where they don’t know what to do. But to save you studying for 10 years to know how to (for example) save your marriage, we counsellors go and do all the necessary learning of what to do, you come to us, we have a conversation about the areas relevant to your situation, and most of the time things get a lot better. So that is why counselling can assist you with problems that you haven’t been able to resolve yourself.
There are many other relevant concerns associated with seeing a counsellor, I have addressed only three here – and those on a fairly surface level. So if you have further queries, concerns, questions, contact us; with no obligation or expectation from our end. Our number is on the top right hand corner of this screen and our email address is located in the contacts tab. We’d love to hear from you.