Counseling as Wellness
COUNSELING AS WELLNESS
By Kelly Arant | M.ED, NCC, LPC
The American Counseling Association defines counseling as a professional relationship that empowers diverse individuals, families, and groups to accomplish mental health, wellness, education, and career goals. This definition underlies the truth that counseling is not, as some might believe, only for those who are sick, bad or crazy. As the stigma around counseling is declining, it is important to consistently dispel any myths about counseling that prevail.
Myth: Counseling is only for people who are “crazy” or have serious emotional concerns.
FACT: The word crazy is wrought with stigma as it conjures up images of persons who do not live in reality, who cannot care for themselves and others, and who lack the capacity to function. It is true that persons who meet the criteria above need appropriate mental health care. However, it does not negate the need for counseling for persons who can function, hold down a job, and care for themselves and others. When the idea that counseling is only for the seriously mentally ill is propagated, then persons who could benefit from the growth and healing counseling offers go untreated.
Myth: People who are in counseling are weak.
FACT: It takes a lot of strength and courage to seek out help. Often the act of making the appointment is the first step toward getting better. Deciding to engage in counseling does not mean a person has failed at solving their own problems. It does mean they are seeking out a professional to help them. This is true for many other areas in life such as going to a dentist to fix a broken tooth, or to a mechanic to help diagnose and correct an issue with an engine.
Myth: A counselor has the answers and will tell you how to fix your problems.
FACT: In most instances, counselors are collaborators and seek not to be advice givers. The Counselor’s Association Code of Ethics requires counselors to honor a client’s autonomy and right to make his/her own choices. Counselors will offer various perspectives and help clients understand natural outcomes to all possible choices. One important exception to this rule is when the client may be considering harming himself or someone else. It is in this instance where it would be appropriate for counselors to be directive.
Myth: I need to see someone just like me for counseling to be beneficial.
FACT: Counselors are trained to be sensitive to individual differences and concerns. An ethical counselor would never impose his or her values on a client. An ethical counselor would seek to work within a client’s worldview. It is a common misconception that you must find a counselor who is just like you in order to see positive results. It is important that a client feels safe and has a rapport with their counselor. Sometimes it is the differences that allows for new insight and perspectives to be considered.
Myth: All therapy is the same.
FACT: Often this is the response when a person is asked about trying counseling, responding that they tried it a few times and it didn’t work. Many aspects of counseling will be similar from agency to agency as well as with counselors. These include reviewing information, conducting an intake interview, and explaining the limits of confidentiality. However, since counseling occurs between two individuals, the rapport between you and one counselor may be totally different between you and another one. Also, it is important to remember that time offers the benefit of new experiences, new insight, and maturity. Often clients find they have changed since their last attempt at counseling and are prepared to make change.
Myth: Just talking about my problem won’t help.
FACT: Most people desire to be heard. Talking about a problem with a confidential, unbiased person does have therapeutic benefits.
Myth: I’ll be forced to go on medication.
FACT: Counselors are non-prescribing practitioners. They may discuss with a client what the research states about the efficacy of medication and suggest they discuss the benefits with their physician, but honoring their clients right to choose would prohibit a counselor from mandating a client go on medication.
Myth: If my child is in counseling, I will be considered a bad parent.
FACT: A wise parent is one who seeks out help for issues before they become more deep-rooted problems. Parents are not considered bad or negligent if they take their child to a physician, dentist or nutritionist. When children are physically sick, parents seek out the appropriate healthcare provider for support. A counselor is a valuable resource and is there to encourage you as a parent. Parenting can be stressful. Counselors understand how stressful it can be and can offer valuable parenting and coping strategies.
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