By Alexia Touboul L.M.H.C
Detaching From the Stigma of Seeking Counseling: Why Asking for Help is Healthy and Totally Worth It
Today’s society has come a long way; in just a few decades, people have become more accepting and open-minded to difference, change, and progress. However, it seems like the concept of seeking counseling is one that has not seen such acceptance and remains “taboo” and judgment-charged.
Perhaps most people do not really understand what modern counseling looks like and therefore are quick to bring up at least one of several therapy myths when the subject is brought up. The purpose of this post is to debunk the most common myths and illustrate why seeking help is not only normal but human.
Myth #1: “Counseling is for the sick and/or weak-minded”
The truth is that most of us struggle with SOMETHING. While some of us are unfortunately plagued with serious mental illness, the rest of us, if we take a good look at it, will find that some part of our life leaves us feeling alone, scared, or dissatisfied. Actually, most of my client base are high- functioning, productive members of society whose lives are full.
However, they may struggle with anxiety or depression when life gets tough and sometimes feel too overwhelmed to try to handle it alone. In my eyes, this doesn’t constitute sickness; if we think about it, it actually takes strength, humility, and courage to say “you know what? I’m tired. I need some help in figuring out how to be happier.” I believe that the bigger the problem in your life, the more brave it is to admit it and try to do something about.
If we chose to look at it this way, it turns out seeking counseling is actually a healthy and strong decision.
Myth #2: “Counseling is for women; I don’t like to talk about feelings”
Ok, so this is actually my favorite myth to debunk. This myth, in my experience, is kept alive by men who are under the impression that seeking counseling will somehow take away from their masculinity and ability to handle life’s problems on their own. Unfortunately, many men, across cultures, have been raised to believe that men should not talk about their feelings and that the best way to handle adversity is to “suck it up and keep moving.”
First, feelings are human and gender-neutral; to ignore them and/or feel shame for having them is to deny oneself of one’s humanity. Things happen, life gets tough, everyone needs support; ESPECIALLY the “strong” men who have always toughened up and taken on too much.
Second, counseling is about learning to take care of oneself; the philosophical premise of counseling is to teach clients how to cope until they reach autonomy (or the ability to handle problems alone.) So macho men of the world, you will only become stronger and more resilient by attending counseling. Many of my male clients have eventually admitted that counseling did not take away from who they are as men but actually empowered them to be better husbands, fathers, sons, and friends.
Myth #3: “Counseling is a waste of time; I can just talk to a loved one”
Being able to rely on friends and family for emotional support is both beautiful and very fortunate. However, friends and family are only able to provide so much. They will give us advice, a shoulder to lean on, and pep talks. But our loved ones aren’t always equipped to provide us with the very elements counselors are trained to deliver.
The first element is unconditional positive regard. This term, coined by famous psychologist Carl Rogers, is a pillar of the counselor-client relationship and it basically means that the counseling room is a judgment-free zone. Counselors are able to exercise this concept because we don’t know our clients outside of the counseling relationship and because we are not personally implicated in their issues.
Unfortunately, friends and family may have preconceived notions of who we are, how we will act, and may even have a stake in the issue we are confiding in them about.
Long story short, talking to a counselor allows for a blank slate where talking to someone who you have history with does not. Another important element that only counselors can provide is the professional training that we have received to handle a variety of issues. Our education and experience has given us the ability to conceptualize someone’s problems by considering biological, social, and psychological factors. Counselors provide a comprehensive approach to treatment based on knowledge of psychological theories and experience to best suit the needs of the client.
Family or friends may not be able to truly understand where the problem lies or how best to help you with it simply because they don’t know how… Best to leave it to the experts.
Myth #4: “Therapy is expensive”
Yes, technically therapy can get expensive. However, there are options. First, almost all insurance companies will cover outpatient therapy. Our practice accepts many different types of insurance and almost all of our clients use insurance for our services.
Typically, there will be a copay which is the clients’ responsibility. Most copays are anywhere between $0 and $30, which keeps the cost of therapy pretty reasonable if attending once weekly. Also, if one does not have insurance or wishes not to use their insurance, private pay options are available.
Our practice, like many others, understands that not everyone can afford another expense and will offer a “sliding scale” fee, or an income-adjusted fee. Whatever the means are, we will work with you in figuring out a fee that is comfortable; we genuinely want to help.
If you are considering seeking counseling, or know someone who is, I hope this blog was helpful in understanding how counseling can enrich one’s life.
As a counselor in counseling herself, I can assure you that the experience not only exceeds expectations, it especially exceeds misconceptions. Be well.