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Counseling Myths

Counseling is for "crazy" people.  My problems aren't "bad enough" to go to counseling.

You do not need to be in a great amount of distress to seek counseling. While counseling is certainly of benefit to individuals with more severe problems, they are not the only ones who can benefit from such services. Many individuals seek counseling for everyday challenges, including: relationship problems, stress, anxiety, sadness, life transitions, academic difficulties, family problems, grief, low self-confidence, etc. Counseling can even help prevent problems from becoming worse.

Going to counseling means that I am weak. 

Going to counseling often requires a great deal of courage. Struggling with difficult feelings or with challenging life circumstances is not a moral failing or character flaw. It is an understandable human reaction. Some people feel pressure to be independent in solving their own problems. This can make the journey along the path to feeling better more difficult than it needs to be. It takes a lot of strength to talk openly about painful experiences and difficult feelings.

If I go to counseling, they will find something wrong with me.

Counselors are interested in helping you achieve your goals, not in judging you. We all have flaws, problems, and struggles. If you are concerned you may have more problems than you have allowed yourself to recognize, a counselor is going to help you better understand these with care and acceptance.

Counseling is too "touchy-feely."

A good counselor will work to meet your needs and is not going to force you into a style of interaction that you are not comfortable with. That said, feelings are something that can come up and be explored in a therapeutic setting. However, most people find it beneficial to do so, even if it might feel foreign or uncomfortable at first.

Counseling doesn't work.

There is a large body of scientific literature that states otherwise. In fact, waiting too long before seeking support can make problems worse. If counseling was not helpful for you in the past, it is worth noting that counseling can look different depending on the counselor, the specific problem you are facing, and your willingness to engage in the process. It may be helpful to try again and not let one bad experience cut you off from available support. If you have never attended counseling, it might be worth giving it a shot. Chances are, you will find a way to find something useful to take away from it.

There's no way that talking to a stranger can help.

The fact that a counselor starts off as a perfect stranger can be helpful in a lot of ways. In seeking support from family and friends, there can be a fear of judgment, of upsetting them, or of other negative consequences. With a counselor, you can rest assured that this person does not have an agenda, will not share what you say with others, is trained to be nonjudgmental, and is not going to react negatively. You don’t have to worry about censoring yourself. Counselors also have an outside perspective and therapeutic experience that may be just what is needed to better understand what is going on and what can help.

Another person cannot help me if they haven't had a similar experience.

It is common to find it difficult to seek support from another person when you feel as though they do not fully understand your situation. This can become especially problematic if you have had poor interactions with others who did not seem understanding. However, counselors have training and experience in making active efforts to understand what you are going through. They may have even worked with others with similar concerns. That said, while experiences can vary, basic human emotions are something that any counselor can relate to at some level.

A counselor will try to tell me what to do.

You are the expert on you.  Most counselors shy away from direct advice and work to help clients come to their own conclusions. Although counselors can help you better understand your thoughts and feelings, you are ultimately in charge of what you do and do not do. They can help present options and ideas to you, but you make the final decision.

A counselor will fix everything for me.

Counseling is not a miracle cure for life problems. A good counselor will offer you coping strategies and do their best to help you navigate the challenges you face. However, it takes commitment on the part of the client, time, and practice to obtain maximum benefit from counseling. It may be best to expect that the counselor will help you find your own answers and solutions over time rather than expecting these to be easily available to you from the start.

If I go to counseling, others will find out.

Counseling is completely confidential. Counselors will not release information that you discuss with them to family, professors, or friends. In fact, they are not even allowed to tell others that you are seeking treatment without your written consent. Counseling is a safe environment to talk about your concerns without a fear of repercussion. There are some exceptions to confidentiality, where disclosing your information might be necessary. However, your counselor would be more than willing to discuss that with you at the outset of counseling.

It is selfish to seek support.

Seeking connection and support is perfectly natural and understandable. Some individuals may find themselves better at helping others than seeking help for themselves. However, seeking support can help you on the path to feeling better in your own life, which can make you more effective in helping others.

Counseling is too expensive.

If you seek counseling at a university counseling center, a reasonable number of visits will be covered by student fees you already pay. If you seek a provider in the local community, many facilities accept insurance and/or have an income-based sliding scale payment system.

Counseling takes a long time.

Most counselors are willing to provide short-term support that focuses on specific and achievable goals. It is quite common for individuals to start feeling better after just a few sessions. However, you ultimately decide how long you will remain in counseling. You are under no obligation to stay in counseling longer than you are comfortable.

I'll have to start medication.

Attending counseling does not require you to begin psychiatric medication. Many individuals do just fine with counseling only. Medication is certainly an option and does help some people, but it is not an option you would be forced to pursue.

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