What is Counselling? 4 Common Myths
When I first told my friends that I was studying to be a therapist, I was surprised by some of their responses. They asked me: “Won’t it be hard to listen to people’s problems all day?” or “Who would pay someone to listen to their problems?” or responded with some version of “Counselling doesn't work, nothing changes by talking”. I remember being surprised by these reactions, but the more I have thought about them I more I realize that they were responding to me based on some of the myths and misconceptions of counselling.
4 Common Myths about Counselling
Myth # 1 “Counselling is just having someone listen to my problems”
Counselling is so much more than “just listening” to the problem. Of course, genuine empathy goes a long way in helping us feel better. It is good to know that someone cares and understands, but this is only part of the counselling process. It does not end there! A good therapist can listen to your problems, hold space for and validate your pain, while simultaneously moving towards the change you want in your life.
Myth #2 “Nothing will change and I’ll just waste my time and money”
Effective counselling is focused on change! It’s not a time where we only focus on what is problematic, but we also create opportunity for what’s working and why. Transformation of the problem(s) in to new choices, new solutions, and new perspectives about how to meet the clients innate human needs, are a part of the counselling process. Counselling works because together the client and the therapist work towards meeting a clients needs in new ways.
Myth #3 “My therapist will just tell me what to do”
Therapy is a co-created experience, and therefore depends on both the therapist and client contributing to the process. Therapeutic goals are determined collaboratively and are always change focused. It is important that you and your therapist both have a clear vision of what you would like to have different and how you both can know that you are reaching your goals. The counselling process is not always an easy one but the over-arching goal is to facilitate a process where clients can access their own wisdom about what they need, and how to meet their needs, which is quite the opposite of the therapist telling you what to do.
Myth #4 “I’ll just talk for an hour… how will that make me feel better?”
Counselling helps because there is an outside voice that is separate from all the internal and interpersonal chaos. The therapist is the “foreign element” in the room helping to reframe and transform your current experience into a new one. The counsellor works to challenge long held beliefs and expectations, and offers new, albeit sometimes scary, choices and opportunities to become an active change agent in your own life. However, this cannot be accomplished by only talking about the problem. It is my firm belief that counselling must also be experiential. My goal in each session is to have my client experience his/her self in a new way. This might be a new perspective on an old hurt, or a renewed hope for the future or a deeper acceptance of self-compassion. It is this new experience that becomes the place where transformation can begin.
The bottom line is this: Counselling helps us give voice to our common humanity – pain and loss and struggle are common to all of us, and allows us to share this with someone who will witness our pain; who can understand, and helps us move through the pain towards transformation. Counselling is always both; holding the truth of our pain, while holding our innate desire to live and thrive. Both are always there, but we don’t necessarily always have eyes to see it or experience it. When we experience both, life and love always win.
Are you ready for some transformation in your life? Maybe it’s your time to see a counsellor?
Loraine Klassen, MAMFT, RCC
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