Hello Everyone! This week on the Blog we have Adrienne Kather giving us her responses to some common reactions to counseling. As you read through, is there one particular statement that sticks out to you, maybe a belief you have or had? Leave a comment below about which on sticks out to you!

When talking about counseling (or telling people I’m a counselor) I’ve heard varying reactions about participating in counseling…and they are hardly ever positive. Although the stigma related to counseling and other mental health services has decreased over the years, it seems there is still a strong stigma (or at least some hindering misconceptions) remaining. Some of the statements are similar to the following: “I’m not crazy”, “I can handle this on my own”, “I don’t want to tell anyone about my problems”, “I’m not as bad as so-and-so”, “I can’t afford it”, “I’m reading my Bible and praying about it” and the list goes on. Similarly, I’ve heard people say in response to finding out I see a counselor say things like, “Why are you seeing a counselor, you’re normal” or “What’s wrong with you” and the list goes on.
For the sake of all those who are seeing a counselor and for all those who are considering seeing a counselor, I’d like to address these statements.

Let’s start with the “I’m not crazy” statement. Nobody is “crazy”. Really. Let me say something I’ll say multiple times in this post – we all have strengths and weaknesses, overdeveloped and underdeveloped areas, and we all have been tainted from the fall and have been wounded – but none of us are crazy. So please stop thinking that people who are seeing a counselor or some other type of mental health professional are crazy and please stop avoiding seeing a counselor or mental health professional yourself because you don’t want to be seen as crazy. You’re not. No one is.

Next up…"I can handle this on my own” and “I don’t want to tell anyone about my problems” or any variation of those statements. First, I don’t believe we were meant to handle things solely on our own. We are relational beings and are influenced constantly by one another even when we don’t realize it. Because we’re relational beings we need each other to handle and work through things. Second, although we do not need to air our problems to the world and need to use discretion to tell only those who can handle what we’re sharing with care, keeping our problems only to ourselves usually only makes those problems grow. This is because when we try to suppress or keep secret, an atmosphere of shame is created. That shame then feeds false beliefs. Living in the light – meaning we accept and experience our emotions and process the underlying thoughts and can share them with a safe person – is how we defeat shame, are able to think about ourselves, relationships, and God in a more balanced accurate way, and actually start to grow and change. Remember, we all have strengths and weaknesses, overdeveloped and underdeveloped areas, and we all have been tainted from the fall and have been wounded. A favorite quote of mine from Carl Rogers is “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” Part of acceptance is being open with safe people.

Regarding “I’m not bad as so-and-so” – no one is better or worse than anyone else. Again, we all have strengths and weaknesses, overdeveloped and underdeveloped areas, and we all have been tainted from the fall and have been wounded (by the end of this post, this phrase will be engrained in your brain). We might have different strengths/weaknesses than someone else, different over/underdeveloped areas, different wounds – but we all have them in one way or another. The same is true for the “normal” statement and the “what’s wrong with you” statements and statements similar to them. What is “normal”? The statement implies that someone with things to work through isn’t normal. As does the “what’s wrong with you” statement. We all at some point in our lives will have something difficult we experience, some wound we need to heal from, something we need to process, or a skill we need help learning. That is normal and there is nothing wrong with it because (here it is again) we all have strengths and weaknesses, overdeveloped and underdeveloped areas, and we all have been tainted from the fall and have been wounded.

I think part of the uniqueness about our emotional and mental health is that we often don’t take it as seriously as our physical health. Granted, our emotional and mental health is more difficult to measure, but it is central to who we are and how we relate to others and God and very much affects our physical health as well. Unfortunately, because much of society (and insurance companies) may not fully understand emotional and mental health, it sometimes isn’t covered by insurance or isn’t covered at the same rate meaning that is does sometimes cost us more out-of-pocket. However, I believe that when we don’t seek help processing situations or learning skills when we need to because it costs us money in the immediate, it ends up costing us more in our health (both physical and emotional/mental), relational health, and even our spiritual health in the long run.




Finally, let’s address the “I’m reading my Bible and praying about it” statement. I’m glad you are and I believe God does use His word and our interaction with Him to grown and heal and transform us. However, I also believe that God is a relational God and He has made us relational people. So we need people just as we need His word and prayer and God has chosen to use people. Don’t miss in your reading of His word all the places where God uses people to reveal Himself, His purposes, and His ways – and receiving that, whether it is directly through the Holy Spirit, through His word, or through people, is part of how we process, heal, and grow.

In summary, a lot of the reasons that we give to not participate in counseling are statements showing a misunderstanding of what counseling is which causes us to think that we must be really messed up or crazy or not doing enough ourselves if we have to see a counselor. When in reality, it is beneficial for all of us to acknowledge that we have strengths and weaknesses, overdeveloped and underdeveloped areas, and we all have been tainted from the fall and have been wounded and to be open to processing that with someone else. There are times we can process things on our own while sharing with safe friends or family, but there are also times we need to process with someone who has an outside or different perspective or even trained in raising awareness and processing skills. And there is nothing abnormal or shameful or wrong with that.

By Adrienne Kather, LPC