Behind the curtain – busting those counselling myths

Because counselling happens behind closed doors, it can seem to be shrouded in mystery, so in this blog, we’re going to do some counselling myth-busting!
 
By addressing common misconceptions associated with counselling and therapy, I hope to take away some of the mystique and leave you feeling more informed and enlightened!
 
So here we go…. 

There must be something wrong with me if I have to see a counsellor
Not at all.  Counselling is really good self-care.  It’s a way of helping yourself when you’re starting to struggle, and putting it off could mean you will struggle for longer.  In fact, nothing has to be ‘wrong’ with you to see a counsellor.  Counselling can be one of the most positive things you can do, and if you want to feel better, why wouldn’t you go to counselling?  Counselling is the ultimate in self-care for those of you who want a better life.

I have to be at rock bottom to seek counselling
Quite often, clients will contact me when they’ve reached crisis point, when they can’t take any more, but as is the case with most things, prevention is better than cure.  Counselling can stop you getting to rock bottom, as I explain in a previous blog post: Take your car to the garage before your exhaust falls off!

It’s expensive
It may seem expensive, but think of it as an investment in yourself.  How much do you spend each year on your car, or haircuts, or getting your nails done?  What if you spent the same amount on your mental health?  Counselling has the power to change your life, if you are willing to invest in it.  Seeing a private counsellor isn’t cheap, but imagine in a year’s time when you feel better and/or have overcome your struggles… you’ll be so glad you invested in yourself. 
Counselling is available free on the NHS, but I know that there are long waiting lists, but there are also counselling agencies that offer low-cost or income-based counselling sessions for those who really can’t afford to commit to regular sessions with a private counsellor.

I don’t need a counsellor – I just talk to my friends
It’s great that you have such supportive friends, but a counsellor won’t interrupt you to tell you their own anecdote, or judge you, or offer you advice, which is what your well-meaning friends may be inclined to do.  A counsellor will focus 100% on you – listening to you and understanding your thoughts and feelings from your own point of view, to enable you to find the best way forward for you.

My counselling sessions will appear on my medical records
If you seek counselling from a private counsellor or a counselling agency, it won’t appear on your medical records.  Your counsellor will most likely keep notes of the sessions as an aide memoire, but these will not be shared with anyone else.

What if I don’t like my counsellor?
The relationship between you and your counsellor is key.  To get the most out of your counselling sessions, you need to have a relationship of mutual trust and respect with your counsellor.  If, after a few sessions, you feel you’re not gelling with your counsellor, it’s a good idea to discuss this with your counsellor in the first instance so you can both have a conversation about what’s working and what isn’t – but don’t be afraid to meet/speak to several different counsellors to find the one that best suits you (although always check that your counsellor is fully qualified and registered with a recognised body (such as the BACP) to ensure they meet high standards of proficiency, professionalism and ethical practice). 

My counsellor will tell someone else what I’ve said
All fully-qualified, registered counsellors are bound by confidentiality, so will not share what you have spoken about, or reveal your identity to anyone else.  The only reason a counsellor will break confidentiality is for the following reasons, and even then, they will inform you of this beforehand:

  • Your counsellor may discuss aspects of the work with a supervisor, but your identity will remain protected.
  • Your counsellor would be required to discuss the work if required by law.  For example, if you discussed acts of terrorism or serious crime or risk of serious harm to others, your counsellor would report that to the police.  Similarly, if you reveal information about children or vulnerable adults being at serious risk, your counsellor would report that to the relevant authorities if you felt unable to do so yourself.
  • If called to give evidence in court, your counsellor would have to do so.
  • Your counsellor may contact your GP or other medical professionals if she believed that you were likely to cause serious injury to yourself.

Will a counsellor tell me what to do?
No they won’t.  A lot of people come to counselling with the expectation that the counsellor has all the answers, but unfortunately we don’t!  Because everyone is unique, what works for one person may not necessarily work for someone else, so although a counsellor may offer suggestions, they will never tell you what to do.  Instead, by attempting to understand your experience from your personal perspective, they will support you to find your own solutions.  However, if advice is what you want, your counsellor may be able to provide you with details of organisations that may help. 

It’s not working – I should feel better after every session
Unfortunately, not all counselling sessions may be comfortable.  Your counsellor will gently invite you to share and explore your feelings, thoughts and experiences, which may feel difficult and painful – but it is only through processing these emotions that growth and development can happen.  However, your counsellor will provide you with a safe space for you to express yourself freely, and will sensitively end sessions so you are not left sitting with unmanageable feelings.

Hopefully that’s busted some myths surrounding counselling, but if you still have a question that hasn’t been answered here, then feel free to comment below, or send me a message on my contact me page.  You can also find more information relating specifically to the counselling sessions I offer, by looking at my FAQs page.

Take care,
Becky

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