Ever notice how therapist on tv shows and movies are just weird? They either sit there and take notes while in some weird zen-like state of mind or they are riddled with their own set of issues making them an unreliable but comical source. The most recent portrayal of a therapist I’ve seen is Tina Fey in The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Her character is a hot mess who drinks too much. It’s hilarious because it’s Tina Fey, however, so unlike a what a real therapist or counselor actually does. Hollywood has tampered with our ideas of this profession and made it taboo.
You know what, I’m a fairly calm well-functioning individual and I go to counseling every now and again and my counselor isn’t weird. I started going to counseling after my Dad passed away because that is what you do after a loss. In my mind I was not going to drag out this grief nonsense any longer than it needed to be. I was going to go, talk it all out and be on mary way because I could so get over grief in a year. I don’t admit this often, but I was wrong. This little thing friend we call grief doesn’t actually go away and sometimes he likes to show up and sucker punch you out of the blue because it’s Tuesday. Sometimes I don’t even go for grief, life is just hard and weird some seasons and it’s a good place to go and be validated that you’re not crazy.
Thanks to Hollywood most people have no idea what it really is or they associate it with weakness. Sure, you can go after a big traumatic life event. My friend’s were happy and supportive when I started going because it made sense. I’ve learned though, it’s much more than just getting through a hard time.
In counseling I have learned ways to cope with emotions when they pop up uninvited to the party. I found a safe place to talk to a person who has given my stubborn self a lot of perspective. My counselor reminds me that 6 months ago I was angry about it and now I’m just mildly agitated. Yay progress! If I were in kindergarten, I would get a gold star on my chart for this. However, I’m an adult and I just need someone to tell me how far I’ve come when I can’t see it because I’m living it. Then some days we just talk about life because it’s so freaking easy and goes according to plan, always.
While not everyone is experiencing grief or a loss like mine, I think counseling is for everyone at some point. I know people are curious about counseling as I’ve had many discussions about it with others and I can see the longing in their faces about wanting to go, but are holding back for whatever reason.
I’ve asked a few brave friends who are willing share a bit of their own story on going to counseling because there are so many different reasons to go to counseling. From anxiety, abuse, family issues, marriage, and life being generally hard at times.
I thought counseling would be all talking, all the time, someone telling me what to do. What I’ve found is it’s a lot of questions, some silence, and crying. And I’m healthier for it.
I went to counseling to help with my general anxiety, marital issues, and self-confidence. I was able to express my feelings and have an unbiased person point out ways I could improve the situation and cope with or prevent anxiety. My counselor was a Christian, who did not downplay mental health as a faith issue, so it was nice to have someone with my values who would pray over me at the end of our sessions and not just tell me, “you need to have more faith and your anxiety will go away.”
There was a time when my husband and I went to counseling in secret. We didn’t tell anyone and even went out-of-town so we wouldn’t run into anyone. In my world, if you needed counseling you must not be praying enough or a good enough Christian. I’m thankful that this way of thinking is now being called out as a lie. When we buy a car we have to change the oil, replace tires and take it in for tune ups. Sometimes our car completely breaks down and needs repair. There is no shame in needing or asking or even paying for help. The time and money (a lot!) that our family has spent on counseling as individuals and also for our marriage cannot hold a candle to the benefits we have experienced. If a car is worth the investment how much more are our hearts and relationships worth? I will forever sing the praises of a good counselor. “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” cannot be our mentality. We all have broken places and will either need a tune-up or a complete overhaul at some point.
I went to counseling because I thought I was losing my mind. I found a safe place to talk about and work through all that was going on without judgment, along with coping strategies to help with anxiety/panic attacks associated with the trauma and support to make new choices rather than remain in an unhealthy environment. I also found a safe place to process the after effects upon leaving an unhealthy relationship.
I came to counseling to get healthy coping strategies and an objective perspective on my relationship with my mom. In the middle of that, I discovered a big family secret. It was a huge betrayal and hurt me so deeply. My counselor has helped me take it piece by piece. We talked through the entire scenario and then have been looking at all the places it has affected my life. I didn’t even realize all the places it had affected, but she has helped me to see things so clearly and helped me to take steps forward. I’m practical so I like that she gives me literal steps to take and not just talks about feelings (although we do that too). She has also helped me to see that some problems I was having that I thought were unrelated are all stemming from a larger, underlying issue. Getting a handle on the root issue has helped solve so many smaller problems I was having!
So, if you’re feeling like life is just a little too much or maybe just a little weird, Be brave and find a counselor that’s right for you. Just like you want to find a great doctor or dentist, you need to find a counselor that’s right for you too.