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It’s Difficult for Many People to go to Counseling

The following article is by Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW, and originally appeared on https://garydirenfeld.wordpress.com. Reprinted by permission of the author.

January 10, 2017

Counseling remains a viable strategy to cope with or change issues affecting one’s life. However, there are often many hurdles ahead of attending. Those hurdles are related to fears, misconceptions and even horror stories about counseling.

Fears include being labeled crazy or bad as well as fear of others learning you are in counseling. Misconceptions include beliefs that counseling doesn’t help, it takes forever to see results and is therefore too time consuming and expensive. For some, there is the misconception that counseling is a sign of personal weakness. As for horror stories, these are often related to relationships that fall apart despite counseling or having to learn about one’s role in untoward behavior or indeed a poor match between the persons seeking counseling and the methods of the counselor.

While the counselor is not there to label you crazy or bad, the counselor’s involvement will help you to examine your own behavior which with insight, you may feel poorly about initially. To this end, the counselor may also advise you about your behavior, attitudes or beliefs that interfere with or contribute to conflict or other emotional distress.

Learning about one’s own behavior and contribution to distress is meant to open the person up to learning new and more productive ways of managing their issues. As the person learns more effective strategies to cope with life events or manage interpersonal relationships, the person typically feels better about themselves and newfound abilities and the issues that brought the person to counseling in the first place may then resolve.

The length of counseling is often a function of the counselor’s approach and the openness to counseling of the person attending. The more negative a person is to counseling or the more the person feels trapped or coerced into attending, the more difficult and time consuming it can be. However, showing up is at times half the battle. Once in attendance, the resistance shown may dissipate and the skill of the counselor may facilitate a positive experience.

While some people see counseling as a sign of weakness, it should actually be considered a sophisticated means for addressing life’s pitfalls. By comparison, no one would consider it a sign of weakness to need the services of an accountant, dentist or mechanic. These are services available to oneself when one’s own skill set doesn’t match life’s demands. Similarly of counseling. We simply are not equipped to always manage whatever life throws at us. Counseling offers the opportunity to look under the hood, tinker and straighten things out to then move forward more successfully.

As for horror stories, this is true in any profession. Not all professionals are helpful to all persons in all circumstances. Not all cars can be repaired or all teeth saved. We also may not be happy with a tax bill or the cost of preparation. None of these circumstances are necessarily a reflection on the service provider though. So too with counseling. Counseling will not resolve all problems or save all relationships. To add, not all professionals have the same expertise.

Just like you can have a poorly skilled mechanic, accountant or dentist, the same is true of counselors. However, this doesn’t mean you will never get an oil change for your car again or never complete your taxes or address a toothache. It just means you need to choose your counselor with the same bit of wisdom that you would choose any other professional. That includes looking at websites, listening to other people’s experiences with their service providers, seeking a referral from your doctor, looking into employment benefits and/or asking friends or family for a referral.

As for cost, people really have to do their own cost analysis. Certainly counseling is for most a grudge spend, at least to start. Just like no one really looks forward to an expensive car repair bill or troublesome dentist visit for an aching tooth, it is reasonable that people would prefer to not have to attend counseling. Notwithstanding, most people are satisfied with their experience after the fact and appreciate the value of the service having attended.

There is only really one reason why anyone seeks and uses any professional service: to hopefully make things better when all other strategies have been exhausted.

If your life is challenging and you’ve exhausted all other options, before you ditch the car or tie your tooth to a string or think you can just avoid paying taxes, you see a professional. Consider the same of counseling. Sure the thought of going may be difficult, but think of the alternative. What if you don’t go? What if counseling may improve matters? You won’t know until you try.

If you tried it and didn’t like the experience, then try another counselor just as you would another mechanic, dentist or accountant. Sometimes though you may hear the same message delivered by multiple professionals. If this is the case, then it is time to consider the message.

In any case, if your life is not on track, counseling may help, as difficult as it may be to get there. Hopefully though if you need it you get there.

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