Does Counseling Really Help?

Many years ago, in casual conversation, I mentioned to someone who had been through a nasty divorce, that I was preparing to become a counselor. She smirked ever so slightly, and said she didn’t think counseling was worth the trouble; her exact words were, “I don’t believe in that. When it’s over, it’s over.” Now, what can you say to that?

It’s true that lots of folks, for a wide variety of reasons, don’t believe in the value of psychotherapy or counseling. The purpose of this article is not to convince the non-believers. All of us have the right to our opinions. However, some undecided readers might be wondering whether counseling/therapy would be a good idea. And they may be undecided because they’re not sure how it works and what sort of commitment it might take.

For those people, maybe clearing up some mistaken ideas about counseling would be a good start.

Here is a worthwhile short article that explains some of the myths regarding counseling:

Some other ideas worth considering:

Each individual has unique reasons for seeking help, including:

To feel better

To make significant personal change

To solve a problem

To heal personal hurts

To address a specific issue, like anxiety, depression or a fear

To heal a broken relationship

To gain new skills and understanding

To grow

To get “unstuck” and move forward

Whatever your reason for consulting a counselor/therapist, that reason is valid. Whether or not it’s a serious problem, we might all agree that, from time to time, just about everyone can benefit from the impartial view of an outsider; an outsider who, because the (s)he has no biases about you, is free to give honest feedback and, unlike others, is much less likely to judge or criticize you.

How does counseling work? The counseling process can be brief – only a few visits – or it can take months, even years in some unusual cases. It can involve a deep look into your history, or it can focus entirely on finding solutions to today’s problem. It can involve the gaining of new insights about oneself, and it can emphasize the acquisition of new skills and strategies. It’s not a one-size-fits-all deal. The process really should be tailored to the client’s individual needs and personality. That’s what I aim to do.

Let’s just say that many approaches to counseling exist. Some of them are based on solid research and evidence, while others … not so much. It’s best to go with a counselor/therapist who uses evidence-based practices. I would also urge you to use a licensed professional, as opposed to someone who just calls him- or herself a “counselor”, but cannot present credentials sufficient to prove competence.

Maybe the most important factor to consider is the mental and emotional connection between you and the therapist. Research indicates the client-therapist relationship is far more important than any other factor. When you make contact with your counselor/therapist, trust your gut feeling. No matter what else you have heard or what you may think, if it doesn’t feel right, look elsewhere.

What’s the difference between counseling and therapy? Ask lots of mental health professionals, and you’ll get lots of different answers. In my view the distinction is not terribly important, but if you’re curious enough to have that conversation, I’ll be glad to share my thoughts.

Making the decision to talk to a counselor/therapist can be downright painful. Some people are just plain scared to bare their soul to a stranger. This anxiety is to be respected. The good news is that the worry can be readily eased, once you have accurate information about it, and have heard the evidence that counseling and therapy have helped countless people with myriad problems.

If you’re thinking about reaching out for help, and you’d like a brief no-cost consultation, I’ll be happy to answer your questions. Please feel free to call 219 309 3928.