At some point in life, everybody needs counseling. This is as irrefutably true as the statement, “At some point, everybody needs to see a doctor.” Here now are the top excuses it seems people have for avoiding counseling, and my responses to these excuses.
1. What’s happening in my life/our relationship is nobody’s business but mine.
Response: This simply is not true. Your life and your choices have dramatic effects on others. In fact when someone truly feels that their life has no impact on anyone else, that’s often when they seek counseling! People cannot live functionally if they really believe this. Those who do not really believe it often use it to avoid seeking counseling.
2. If we’re at a point where we need to get counseling, the relationship is too far gone.
Response: This is like saying that if you break your arm, you might as well go ahead and get both of them amputated. Far better is to find out specifically what is wrong and fix it.
3. Counseling doesn’t work
Response: This is sometimes true. But what matters more are the reasons why counseling doesn’t work. Often when counseling doesn’t work, it is because the client resists the process, and even sabotages it. That’s not to say that the fit between client and counselor isn’t critical, but that’s a different post.
4. People/relationships are mysterious and there’s no way to really know what’s happening inside of them.
Response: It is true that people are mysterious but we do have tried and proven ways of helping them make adjustments so they can live more peacefully and comfortably. It is mostly false that relationships are mysterious. Relationships are built on principles that can be understood, and if one understands the principles, one largely understands relationships.
5. I’ve been to counselors before. They’re just going to get me on medication.
Response: Most counselors I have worked with are reticent about getting clients on meds. Besides, the point isn’t whether or not the counselor will refer you for medication. The point is what will best help you to move forward, to feel better, and to make genuine progress. Whether or not you go on medication is your choice. If a counselor thinks you might need medication, you can always go on it, see if it helps, and then go off if it doesn’t.
6. Counselors are quacks.
Response: Of course some are. Every profession has quacks in it. But every profession also has its share of highly skilled professionals. Use at least as much care when selecting a counselor as you would in hiring someone to put a deck on your house.
7. Counseling is for crazy people.
Response: This could not be less true. A huge value of seeing a counselor for most people is hearing a trained professional tell them that they in fact are not crazy. People fear they are alone, that no one has ever had this problem to this degree, and it’s almost never true. Problems — even severe ones — are common to everybody.
8. It’s going to be weird.
Response: Probably. Everything new feels weird at first. That has nothing to do with whether it’s the right idea or not.
9. I went to counseling once and it didn’t help.
Response: Once? What does that mean? How long did you go? It takes many years to get to a place where we are stuck, and can often take many, many months to get unstuck. Were you seeing a respected professional? Were you open to the process? Did you do the exercises that were suggested? Was the fit right between you and your counselor? Were you working harder than your therapist, or were you just waiting to get fixed? Were you just putting in your time so you could tell people you tried everything? Did you go to work on yourself, or to make sure the counselor understood that others were to blame?
10. I don’t need/can’t afford counseling.
Response: You definitely need counseling. Or you will. Everybody does at some point, and probably at multiple points. A lot of what you think is wrong in the world/people around you is actually located in you and has to do with your own perceptions and viewpoints and opinions. Instead of seeing this clearly inside yourself, you see it located outside of you. Most Americans will probably never go to counseling. That means we live in a society where every individual is the sole judge of whether or not there’s anything he/she needs counseling for. That’s like Congress investigating itself.
That so many people think they do not need help while they live in such chaos, slavery to their own thought patterns and habits and bad choices, miserable relationships, sadness, blame, fear, and ego is precisely the problem. If one truly doesn’t need counseling, there is nothing to fear from going. Insisting one does not need it, while refusing to give it a try, is much like saying, “I can stop drinking anytime I want to — I just don’t want to.” Yeah, right. Nearly all of us know what that means.
Regarding cost, most counselors do some pro bono work, or will work on a sliding scale. There are free services available in community mental health centers and other agencies in every community.
Next post: Next steps if you think you might want to get counseling