10 Myths About Counselling You Might Believe
by Jon S. White, Executive Director, Partners Counselling & Education Services
1. Going to Counselling means I’m “messed up” or “mental.”
Well, I won’t lie. Something is messed up, but it isn’t you. We all have had experiences, especially in our younger years, that left us believing certain things about ourselves, other people and the world in general. Some of these beliefs come from childhood, our culture, various media etc. Many of them are gender-based and are the consequence of how both genders are scripted to experience their male- or femaleness. When these beliefs – many of which are completely unconscious – show up in our lives as struggling relationships and damaged self-esteems, we need help to straighten them out. Many of the beliefs that burden us were learned. The good news is that they can be unlearned and relearned. At Partners it is our job to help you get all the knots out of your rope.
2. My friends are there, if I need help.
While friends can be a powerful source of comfort and support, they are not trained professionals. Even if they are, they may be too close to you and your emotion to be properly objective. There is a certain energy to attending a session with a trained Professional that is more conducive to good Counselling outcomes. Change is always a challenge for most of us because it means adapting to a different reality. Those adaptations cause stress. At Partners we are trained to help you move through those changes with more ease and grace.
3. I don’t know what I would talk about.
The first job of your Counsellor is to put you at ease and to help you feel comfortable and safe enough to relax and “open up.” We at Partners are very good at this. We’re real people who appreciate how challenging this process is and have all taken our turn with our own therapy or clinical supervision. All of us understand the need to continue our own inner work and, as the Executive Director, it is my job to continually challenge my Associates to stay conscious of their own lives and careers and to stay on top of their own game. This is called Clinical Supervision and it is intended to ensure they we are not trying to take you places we haven’t already gone ourselves.
4. I will be forced to relive unpleasant emotions.
In truth, there is little therapeutic value in spending a lot of time wading in the muck of our own pasts. The past may inform some of the present, but it need not define you. While the past does not excuse us, it can help to explain us. But be clear: all of the events and people in our lives – now and in the past – contributed to who we have become. When crap shows up in our lives, spending a bit of time figuring out where it came from and, more importantly, critically looking at whether or not it is even true, is valuable. For instance, repeatedly being treated like or called a bad person, does not make it true – not unless you have believed it and are now acting “badly” as a result. Partners will help you rediscover the Real You: that perfect child you were when you came to this planet.
5. My Counsellor will judge me.
Not going to happen. It is unethical and unprofessional. More importantly, all of us at Partners have walked our own difficult paths. Some of us were lost once too. All of the Associates at Partners, especially me, have overcome significant obstacles and challenges in the past. That’s why we are so good at what we do. We all have been trained, but we didn’t just read this stuff in a book. We’ve been there, done that. Judgement of any kind has no place in the Partners Counselling equation!
6. Counselling is expensive.
We have a fee. It is not covered by OHIP or Insurance. That is not an accident and, in fact, I would turn down public funding. Why? Because we heal best and fastest when we are fully invested in our own good health. I’ll tell you what is expensive: an unhappy life, lost potential, divorce, suicide, drug use and overdose. All these things are happening daily all around us. Two medium coffee a day will cost at least $1300.00 a year; a pack of cigarettes a day almost $4000.00 a year. Partners offers a reasonable fee. It is the best and healthiest gift you will ever give yourself. At Partners we are not responsible to funders or the government or insurance companies that care little for you as an individual. We are only responsible to you, our client. We account to no one but you and to each other and our professional standards and ethics. We are proud of this. Don’t let money be the reason you continue to struggle. It is never worth it.
7. A Couples Counsellor will choose a side – likely the one of the same gender.
I have news for you: it is not my job to decide which of you is right and which is wrong. You’re both right. And you’re both wrong. Seeking who to blame is a worthless experience. You came together for a reason and, at the time, it served you both. We are all personally responsible for our choices. Rather, it is my job to help you determine if your relationship serves you still and, if so, I have some remarkable tools to share and to teach you. Remember, each couple relationship contains three separate entities: you, him/her and us. You and he/she bring separate backgrounds, hurts and experiences into the relationship. Together you form a third thing – a couple – who must blend these two pasts together, create a family and perhaps parent children. I can teach you a whole new set of skills and communication to help make all three of these entities flourish. Remember: separation is unpleasant, messy and very expensive. Why go there if Partners can demonstrate that there is a chance of repair and happiness?
8. Once an alcoholic/addict always an alcoholic/addict….
While it is true that addiction is considered a chronic condition, people get sober and stay that way. I have. While it is also true that I will never be “cured” of alcoholism, my job was to learn the art of Sober Living and now to teach it to others. My personal experience and training, along with a variety of intervention, Addiction Counselling and therapeutic tools and resources all maximize the chance of recovery and a healthy drug and alcohol-free life. If we continue to hold people in the trap of their addiction, with our judgement and blame, we lessen their chances for recovery. You are not what you do. Partners has been very successful in helping men, women and teens get clean and sober and stay that way.
9. I can find the answers myself.
Let’s be honest. If you knew the answers, you would probably be already using them and your life would be the way you want it. Sometimes we have to acknowledge that we don’t know the answers because we aren’t even sure of the questions. You can’t ask for a tool you don’t even know exists. Our job at Partners is to help you find the right questions and to support you in finding your own answers. We do Counselling with you, not on you. We believe that all people want to be well and happy and that the seeds of all that are within you. We’ll help you discover where to look, then “hold your coat” as you make the changes.
10. Counselling takes forever.
No, it doesn’t. And it shouldn’t. My job is to help you resolve your “stuff” and get on with a glorious life just as quickly as you’re willing to move. The changes you make, the new tools you learn, the healthier perspective you adopt – those are the things that last forever.