Myths of Counseling
Individual Counseling | Columbia, Mo
No long intro here - just keep in mind that any of the following may (or may not) fit with you. These are common, even if the first one is kind of silly, but still important!
- Your counselor can read your mind.
Ha! I wish. Seriously, can you imagine a counselor with telepathy? Best. Counselor. EVER. I hate to be the one to burst your bubble, but it’s just not true. Counselors can’t read your mind. This is probably why you might think that, though
We’re trained on people and how they engage in peopling in the world. We’re trained to not only listen to the words you’re saying, but also how you’re saying them (i.e. inflection, tone, pacing, pauses), as well as your facial expressions and your body language. I remember reading a statistic somewhere that said communication is 70% nonverbal. SEVENTY PERCENT. That’s a crazy high number, and we make good use of it.
No telepathy, though. ;)
- Once you fully understand the problem, then you’re done with counseling. I mean, yes and no. Yes, having a full understanding of the issue or problem you’re coming in with is important. And no, having a full understanding of the issue or problem is not enough to stop doing the work. The reality is that understanding is the easy part. It’s easy to “know” what you’re supposed to do. Just because you know what to do, do you do it? Exactly.
What most people don’t know or realize, however, is that the actual process of change is where the difficulties really lie. It’s hard to make changes in life. When we understand our problem, that’s the starting point. It’s not that we want to see you forever, but it is that we want you to actually make changes related to your problem before calling it quits with us because that’s where the work really is.
- Personal development has a finish line.
Most people think that they’re going to be pristine at the end of counseling and that they’re never going to deal with their problem again - they’ve got it totally figured out, have made changes, have been practicing their new way of being in the world, and accept (for lack of a better word) perfection.
I love y’all, but that’s so wrong. Our growth is perpetual. The point of counseling is to unblock a jam that’s impeding growth, it’s not to rush you to your finish line. And, technically, the ultimate finish line is death. Until that point, our bodies and minds are constantly evolving and changing. It’s seriously amazing how humans operate.
- Counseling is the same thing as friendship.
You know, this is one I really understand, but still need to put on here. Counseling and friendship are absolutely not the same thing. The counselor-client relationship can be such an intimate experience. Imagine being able to bare your soul with another person who not only makes space for it, but encourages it and is actually interested in hearing and listening. As in, really listening. It’s unprecedented for many people who come in the door. It’s also welcome.
Here’s the difference, though. Friendship is a two-way street and counseling is not. You’re not going to have a counselor who relies on you to talk about and listen to their problems (yes, counselors are human and have their own issues - it’s a human thing, not a you thing). Counselors are also trained in how to say things at the right time, rather than just dole out advice. I love my friends, but if I want objective advice from somebody without their own agenda, then I’m probably going to my counselor.
- Counseling is a sign of weakness.
Ugh, this one grinds my gears. I’ll leave you with this (rhetorical) question. If it takes work and is difficult to be honest and feel unpleasant (and pleasant, for some people) feelings and to talk about things that are eatin away at you on the inside, then why is counseling a sign of weakness? If I told you to squat 1000 pounds or run 15 miles and you hadn’t trained at all, would you say that was a sign of weakness? NO. You’d practice and then you’d do it. For whatever reason, we think that talking about something that’s difficult means that it shouldn’t be talked about. WHAT. WHY?! It means that it should be practiced (i.e. talked about) and that muscle grown.
- Counselors are humorless.
Uuumm, I really, really hope that my clients don’t think this. Sure, one sense of humor doesn’t jive with everybody, but the counseling relationship isn’t one where there’s never any laughing or joking, where there aren't any niceties or catching up on random television shows - it’s a human relationship, not strictly a business relationship. It’s one where people can show up fully and if connection with others includes laughing, then that’s included in counseling, too. Counseling is all about connecting.
My favorite part about this list is that you can bring it up with your counselor and talk (or laugh) about it!
That's the beauty of a therapeutic relationship. There's nothing that has to be left unsaid. The space you and your counselor co-create in sessions should be one of warmth, empathy, understanding, and safety. And all of those things would imply that you could talk about things that you might not feel comfortable talking about outside of sessions. Regardless of whether you do this or not, it's nice to know it's a possibility.
That’s all for today. We love myths and love to write about how, as the name implies, they’re not truths. Happy counseling, everybody!