Myth #1: Counseling is for crazy or weak people! I don't need help.
We all have problems and sometimes struggle to cope. If we were lucky
enough to have had healthy role models who were totally in tune to
themselves, knew how to deal well with stress and easily adjust to changes, were emotionally stable, could get out of the stickiest of problems without a scar, never let anything affect them emotionally, made the best of all decisions, and were also in tune to us enough to teach us all of this, we could overcome anything without anyone’s help. Ever met anyone like that? Me either. So who teaches us how to do all of this? Usually the school of hard knocks. Sometimes, we never learn and continue to struggle with these things throughout our lives. I teach people how to understand themselves, learn to do these things, and resolve their challenges. My office is a space where you can reveal your deepest secrets and most painful scars, get to know the real you and find out what you really need to be happy, and gain effective skills to manage and overcome your challenges. It is a sign of health, courage, and maturity to recognize your problems and seek help for them – everyone can use counseling at one time or another in their lives.
Myth #2: Counseling is a last resort - when things are out of control.
If you began to feel pangs in your chest, would you wait until they became a heart attack before going to the doctor? Prevention of the attack is easier than repairing a damaged heart. Likewise, it is more effective to seek counseling when you begin to notice that you are not happy than it is to wait until your life falls apart. Going to counseling is a way of taking control of your life!
Myth #3: Talking to my friends and family as just as good as talking to a counselor.
Friends and family are often great resources to help us through our problems. But there are key differences between these types of relationships and one with a counselor. First, in a counseling relationship, you are the most important person – there is no conversational give-and-take. The focus is exclusively on you and the problems you are facing. Second, a specific plan is designed to help you achieve your goals. Third, counselors are objective, non-judgmental, and non-biased. They usually see a client’s situation differently than friends or family members do. Fourth, the relationship is based on confidentiality – what you say in counseling stays in counseling (see below for more information about confidentiality). Fifth, the relationship is for the exclusive purpose of counseling. Counselors do not become friendly or intimate with their clients. Finally, Myth #4 provides another significant difference between friends, family, and counselors...
Myth #4: Counselors give advice.
One of the first things a counseling student learns: Don’t Give Advice! Counselors are not the experts of your life! My experiences, perceptions, values, beliefs, and so on may vastly differ from yours, so I do NOT begin to think that I can know what is best for you. My job is acknowledge and respect the differences between us, learn what you have to teach me about you, and then help YOU find your own answers, based on YOUR experiences, perceptions, values, beliefs, etc.. I do this by listening, understanding, validating, empathizing, asking questions, exploring, teaching, providing insight, and pointing out discrepancies between what you say you want and what you actually do to get it – all to help you better understand yourself and your situation so that YOU can make the healthiest choices. After all, by the time you get to me, you have probably had all of the advice you’d ever want to hear from others!
Myth #5: Drugs work just as well as therapy.
Medication may help relieve symptoms, but in the end, it’s just a “band-aid.” Stop the meds and the pain returns. Then there is the risk of harmful side effects and the possibility that the effectiveness will fade and another drug will be required. Some studies question the effectiveness of medication at all for mental health issues; others suggest that the placebo effect is at work. On the other hand, counseling starts at the root and works through the problems by talking about them, understanding their beginnings and manifestations, and treating their causes. Repeated research supports counseling as the most critical component in overcoming mental health issues. Granted, in some cases medication is necessary to “lift you up” to a point where you can effectively participate in counseling - but it is not a cure.
Myth #6: Other people will know that I am seeing a counselor.
I am ethically, legally, and morally bound to confidentiality. That means that unless you give me written permission to tell someone that you are coming to see me or if you tell someone yourself, our relationship is between you and me. There are some limits to confidentiality, however, such as if you plan to harm yourself or someone else or in some legal cases. Otherwise, what you share with me stays with me.
Myth #7: I’ll have to lie down and talk about how my parents messed me up
while the counselor sits there and says, “Uh huh.”
Thank you Hollywood for this one! While some of this may be true of counseling in its infancy (a la Freud), today counseling is a very interactive process that you participate in while sitting in a comfortable chair in my office. In some cases, your childhood experiences may be very relevant to how you live your life now. But rather than “blame it on the parents,” I’m more concerned with what is happening to you today, what you want to change, and learning how I can best help you to achieve your goals for the future.
Myth #8: Counseling takes years and I don’t have the time.
I think Hollywood played a role in this one too… The time you spend in counseling depends upon you, your reason for coming to counseling, your readiness for change, and your willingness to apply the principles you learn in session to your daily life. Basically, this means that it could take 8 sessions - or 8 years. Ultimately, the time frame is up to you. My interest is in helping you reach your goals as quickly as possible. Yes, it does take time – both to attend and to do the work between sessions. But how much time have you already spent in worrying, being sad or angry, feeling out of sorts or in pain, or spinning your wheels because what you are doing is not working? Do you continue this “time-expenditure” indefinitely or do you spend time in counseling now so that your future includes freedom from these burdens?
Myth #9: Counseling is expensive.
Well…I agree that it’s not cheap. But few things of great value are. People tend to find the resources for what is important to them. Compare the cost of becoming happier now to the “price” you will pay to spend the next 5, 10, 15 or more years carrying this burden, struggling with these challenges, living with these emotions, or compromising your relationships. What value do you place on a healthier way of life, a kinder self-image, effectively managing stress or your emotions, more satisfaction in your relationships or job? Also compare the cost of therapy to potential costs if you don’t resolve the problems, such as medication or medical bills for physical problems caused by long-term distress. Counseling is an investment in YOU and your wellbeing! I offer a number of plans to help reduce costs (please see the “Fees” page). Although I don’t accept third party payment because of my personal ethics, if you have an Out of Network clause in your insurance policy, I will provide you with receipts for the sessions you pay for and these can be submitted to your insurance company for reimbursement.
Myth #10: I am afraid that all my “stuff” will come out at once
and it will be overwhelming.
Fear and anxiety are understandable reactions to coming to therapy for the first time. However, counseling is a gradual process. It is not a quick fix and “baby steps” are taken along the way. Counselors are trained in assessing a client’s emotional tolerance levels and adjusting accordingly. They also slow down the process if things begin to unfold too quickly. Finally, YOU are in total control of the session and can stop it at any time. So, the chances of “letting it all out and going over the edge” in a counseling session are highly improbable.
Myth #11: Counselors are “psychic.”
Have you ever met a counselor in a social situation and suddenly felt like you needed to be guarded so that this person could not “get into your head” and analyze you? Yes, counselors are trained to understand human problems and to diagnose mental health problems. However, it takes much more than a casual conversation to understand your experience or to “label” you. In counseling, we use the onion metaphor: when I first meet you, I see the outer layer. As we spend time together, the layers are peeled until we get to the core problem. “Knowing” you is the direct result of time spent with you and what you allow me to see.
Myth #12: I'll call later.
What is it that they say - "Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today"? NOW is the time to begin your journey toward healing. Putting it off a day means one more day of dealing with your struggles and one more chance that you will never do it. Right now, you have a 100% chance of nothing changing if you do nothing or a 50% chance of something changing if you do something. Take that chance and call now!