This is the question that starts every journey into my office. It is a great question; frequently followed up by “I can handle it” or “I’m not crazy.” And you know what? Those follow ups are completely accurate. You CAN handle it, and crazy isn’t a thing.
Counseling and therapy have been pigeonholed through what we see in movies or what we have been told via the culture of our community as only for ‘others’. ‘Others’ who have major, uncontrolled mental health concerns, poor self control, no stress tolerance. This stigma is so incredibly unfortunate and inaccurate.
A multitude of studies have found that talk therapy and counseling benefit people for a number of reasons (neurological changes, efficacy of counseling). Anecdotal support appears on sites from Buzzfeed to Huffpost, Forbes Magazine to Psychology Today. Furthermore, it is highly likely that you know someone who has benefitted from counseling (cdc stats)!
Here’s what I’ve seen over the years: people are hesitant at first and once they become open to the process, they are able to make incredible strides toward their betterment and goals. Is it a smooth, easy process? NO, absolutely not. If we are doing it correctly, counseling is highly challenging. There will be ups and downs, there will be uncomfortable truths to encounter and overcome, there will be plateaus. And at the end of our time working together, if you are open, honest, and committed to the work, you will experience positive change of your own making.
The honest truth is everyone has the potential to benefit from counseling. Some people utilize it for a short period of time and never go back. Others find it a useful tool to engage in counseling weekly for much longer. Some go for a few months, then get a “touch up” every once and a while. How you utilize counseling is completely up to you, and how you benefit from it is yet to be seen.
Counseling is not only for those who require hospitalization occasionally (or frequently). Perhaps a person is having trouble with losing a loved one, deciding on a job change, becoming a grandparent, going to college, questioning their mood shifts, concerned about their use of substances, or just plain sad more days than not.
Speaking with a caring, unbiased professional about whatever concerns a person may have will help give shape to a problem. Having the opportunity to see a problem from an objective perspective can allow a person to approach the problem from an empowered space, to feel content with one’s decisions, to cope more effectively. Can’t we all use a little more of that?