The following list of common unknowns and misconceptions about counseling is adapted from an article that originally appeared on MindBodyGreen.com.
Being a therapist can be an amazing profession full of challenges, heartaches, joy, and celebration. We may see you at your worst and your best, and there is no better reward than to see you experience growth and healing. Here are some aspects of the therapeutic relationship that are often either unknowns or common misconceptions.
1. I don’t think you’re crazy.
I think you are an amazingly unique individual who, like the rest of us, is trying to find your way in what can sometimes be a hectic world. None of us is perfect and I surely don’t expect you to be anywhere close to mastery when you’re learning new skills to change your life. Effective change usually requires trial and lots of errors. It means you’re trying!
2. I won’t ever assume I know exactly what you need.
My job is to be curious and to help you gain more understanding. A good therapist doesn’t claim to have all the answers for why you are the way you are, although we may have some ideas that we will willingly share with you. When it comes to getting answers and more understanding, we will form hypotheses together and you will come to your own conclusions. A therapist facilitates that process. They don’t tell you how to think, believe, or act.
3. I’m not here to tell you what you have to do, need to do, or should do.
I’m here to share my knowledge with you and help you make your own decisions that are balanced, rational, and well-explored; not impose upon you what I think is best for you. Strengthening your own reasoning and decision-making skills will likely increase your independence and self-esteem. Win-win!
4. Work through your emotions with me instead of avoiding them, anger included.
Therapy is the perfect place to learn how to express your feelings…and yes, this can be a very unfamiliar and scary experience for most. That’s what I’m here for, to give you a space to try out new ways of being, thinking, and feeling. Although you may feel like pulling back or away from time to time, don’t…take advantage of this aspect of therapy. When we learn how to work through our negative emotions with others, it increases our relationship skills and makes us more comfortable with voicing our hurts. This is a necessary component to maintaining relationships and managing your emotions in a healthy way.
5. I expect you may slide back into old behavior patterns and I’m not here to judge you.
Most people judge themselves enough for at least two people. I encourage my clients to come clean. It’s only through acknowledging our steps backward that we can figure out what’s standing in the way so that you can catapult forward. Relapse or backsliding is VERY common and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.
6. You deserve to be happy.
Happiness is not reserved for special people. Everyone has regrets, things we wish we never would have done, people we’ve hurt along the way, people who have hurt us either intentionally or unintentionally. I’m a firm believer that we can heal our wounds and step into happiness. You deserve it just as much as the next person.
7. The quickest way from point A to point B is action.
If you continue to come to therapy without putting any new behaviors or thoughts into action, making progress may be a slow process for you. The path to action is different for everyone, but if you never do anything different, you’ll most likely never experience any different results. You’re the only one who can decide to take action. You hold all the power.
8. I want you to have the life you want.
I hear and recognize your struggles, your dreams, and your insecurities. There is nothing I want more for you than for you to bring your dreams into reality, push through your fears, and have the life you want. Your success is the ultimate gift to a therapist!
People come to therapy for all kinds of reasons. Usually, people are experiencing a moderate level of discomfort in their lives and have noticed a toll on their work or school performance and in their relationships. Beginning therapy can be scary for some as they are showing a willingness to face tough topics, but for others, it’s a huge relief to finally be taking action to move in a different direction.
Therapy isn’t always easy, but I think it’s the most worthwhile gift you can give yourself. Find someone you trust and who puts you at ease. The relationship you build with your therapist is the most important aspect of all.
This article was written by therapist Megan Ward, MA, LPC