10 Myths about Counseling
Misconceptions and faulty beliefs about counseling are very prominent in our society. Inaccurate images of what clients seeking counseling are like, how time is spent in counseling and the nature of the counseling relationship are often found in media images. Thinking these media misconceptions are true can make seeing a counselor a scary proposition. The myths and realities listed below provide a more accurate sense of what counseling is truly like.
Myth #1: Counseling is only for crazy people
Reality: Many people who attend counseling are bright, skilled, and stable people. These individuals are often struggling with problems in a specific area and seeking personal growth and development. Stressors and difficulties are a part of life for all people. Many argue that the ability to ask for and accept counseling help represents clear evidence of intelligence and sanity.
Myth #2: Counseling is only for problems that are severe
Reality: Most individuals seek counseling for everyday issues like relationship problems, stress, and symptoms of depression. It is true that counseling can be helpful for individuals suffering from severe problems. However, seeking counseling for problems at this level does not represent the majority of clients in counseling. Additionally, attending counseling when problems are mild to moderate can prevent problems from becoming severe.
Myth #3 A counselor does not know me and can’t help me
Reality: Actually, this is one of the most important reasons why counseling can be successful. Since a counselor is not a part of your day to day life, they are capable of being more impartial with less bias. Oftentimes, family and friends tell you what you should do. Counseling involves a unique relationship where you are encouraged and challenged to find the answers that are right for your life.
Myth #4: Counselors just sit there, nod, and stay silent
Reality: Many stereotypes and depictions of counselors in movies have led to their image being "touchy-feely", reading your mind, detached, or ineffective. Most counselors today are active and engaged, using questions, reactions, and interventions to help you move towards your goals. It will be important to consider how active you want your counselor to be and inquire about this when working to find a counselor that is right for you.
Myth #5: Counseling takes forever
Reality: The length of counseling depends on the client’s goals, motivation, and the severity of the problems brought into counseling. However, most counseling is short-term, generally lasting between eight and fifteen sessions. Good counselors are invested in helping you meet your goals so you can successfully operate independent of counseling.
Myth #6: Everyone will know I'm seeing a counselor
Reality: Counselors our bound by professional ethics and state law to protect your confidentiality and privacy both during counseling and after counseling ends. Only in extreme cases where someone is in imminent danger or a judge mandates release of counseling records can confidentiality be broken. Outside of these circumstances, information can only be shared if you share it or you provide written authorization for releasing information. A good counselor will explain confidentiality to you at the beginning of counseling.
Myth #7: Couples counseling always makes one person the villain
Reality: Good couples counselors focus on the relationship. While it will be important to gather information from each member of the couple, the purpose is to facilitate relationship change. As a result, each member will look at their role in the current state of the relationship. Rather than labeling someone the villain, the couple’s counselor will encourage both members to make changes leading to improvements in the relationship.
Myth #8: You have to be near a divorce to qualify from marriage counseling
Reality: Marriage counseling can be beneficial for couples who suffer from mild, moderate, or severe problems or couples who just want to attain greater marital happiness and satisfaction. Many married couples avoid counseling until a divorce seems imminent. Counseling does not guarantee that a divorce will not happen, but it can guide you toward the best decision for the relationship.
Myth #9: Couples problems can only be examined in couples counseling
Reality: While it is ideal to work on couples issues as a couple, various approaches exist. Some couples counselors see members of the couple individually for 1-2 sessions to augment couples counseling. Sometimes, members of a couple benefit from attending individual counseling as well to supplement couples counseling progress. In each case, the ultimate goal is to improve the couple’s relationship system and couples counseling remains a good option in many cases.
Myth #10: Counseling will change who I am forever
Reality: Counseling will not require you to make changes you do not like, that you are not ready for, or that go against your beliefs and values. Counseling is designed to facilitate positive change. It is important to keep in mind that you are in charge of the change that you make. If you are unhappy with the changes that are happening, tell your counselor. Counselors want to help you change in the ways that feel beneficial to your life.
Information gathered from:
Rich, H. & Laks Kravits, H. (2001). The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Perfect Marriage. Penguin Group: New York.
Santa Clara Valley Chapter California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. Marriage and Family Therapy Top 15 Myths about Therapy “What You Don’t Know Could Hurt You…”