It’s year 2016 and there’s still A LOT of mental health stigma out there. I get it…it’s not always easy or acceptable for folks to talk about their struggles and share the ways that counseling has been helpful. My gripe about all the secrecy is that when we keep info about something beneficial on the DL, lots of misinformation starts floating around and people don’t get the help that they need. Some of the myths that keep popping up are about starting counseling. Well, call me mythbusters because I’m about to bust all these myths!
I SHOULDN'T START COUNSELING BECAUSE…
Myth #1: …my problem isn’t bad or urgent enough
The perception that the only people that go to counseling are the ones struggling with psychosis, self-harm, or violence, is just wrong. The truth is, people seek help for LOTS of reasons. Can you guess the most common reasons young adults go to counseling? Answer: stress, anxiety, depression, and difficulties with relationships.
Myth #2: …my problem is just me being dramatic
I often hear folks downplaying their concerns and trying to convince themselves that “it’s just all in my head.” Well—my stance on this is: If you’re bothered by something (whether it’s just in your head or not) …you’re still bothered, right? Might as well get it sorted out.
Myth #3: …my problem is too bad
People are afraid that the counselor will FREAK OUT if they tell them about how dark their thoughts and feelings might be. I’m here to tell you that counselors are THE PERFECT persons to tell that stuff to because they won't freak out, they’re the ones who have the skills to help!
Myth #4: …my problem will burden the counselor
People worry that they will hurt their counselor by telling their story. Look, it’s no secret that counselors hear about things that are upsetting…and yes, it can be difficult for us sometimes because we are humans not robots. But people forget that we’re TRAINED to do this work! I’m talking about years and years of practice in listening and allowing sad and upsetting stories to be honored and told. As well as years of learning how to care for ourselves so that we can be effective healers. That’s the heart of what we do and we love to do it. So please, share your story, you aren’t hurting us...you’re allowing us to do the work we love.
Myth #5: …it’ll prevent someone else from getting help
Each time someone says this to me, I want to hug ‘em. To people who think this, I want to say to you: You’re WORTHY of help too, you deserve to live a full life too, and your concerns are not any less important than anyone else.
Myth #6: …it’ll prevent me from getting a job
Nope. Not even a little bit. There’s this beautiful thing called confidentiality and you have the right to it by law! So, unless you openly talk about your counseling experience during an interview, they will never know. You would have to give your counselor formal permission (by signing a bunch of paperwork) to release that information to an employer…and it’d have to be for good reason…they won’t just release your stuff all willy nilly.
Myth #7: …I don’t believe in it
Usually, when people say this it’s because they lump counseling into a category in their minds that’s labeled, "Magic, lord of the rings, and other things I don’t believe in.” The truth is, counseling’s been rigorously researched over decades with consistent findings that it’s effective at treating mental health issues.
Myth #8: …counseling is a White people thing
This is a tough one because it’s a half-truth. All cultures typically have norms around who is/isn’t a helper/healer and under what circumstances it's ok/not ok to seek help. In some cultures, counseling simply isn’t one of the options. In White culture, it’s an acceptable form of help seeking so it’s automatically attributed as ‘a White people thing.’ The problem with this myth is that it’s not the full truth. People of color can and do find counseling helpful and beneficial, especially when they work with a counselor who understands and is sensitive to the nuances of their cultural identity. Some counselors are more competent in this area than others and it's OK to inquire about it when locating the right counselor for you. Not sure where to start? See my step-by-step guide to finding a psychologist in Texas as well as a list of other things you didn't know you could say, ask, or do in counseling.
Myth #9: …I’ll get put on meds
Medication is not automatically prescribed, nor is it helpful or necessary for everyone. If it seems like medication is a good option for you, your counselor will talk to you about it first and then refer you to someone who can prescribe medication. You can say ‘no’—you won’t be forced to take meds. BTW, psychologists and counselors do not prescribe medication, only psychiatrist (see my simple explanation of the different types of mental health professionals).
Well, there you go…9 myths busted into oblivion! If you have an idea about counseling and aren’t sure whether it’s a myth, don’t hesitate to ask. Shoot me an email or call me at 512-586-7001. If you’re looking for culturally informed services in Texas or help with anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem, schedule a FREE 15-minute phone consultation or read more about how I can help here.