“Only crazy people go to therapy.” If that statement were true, then as a mental health clinician, I would almost never talk to anyone. The stigma around mental health is real. Unfortunately, we live in a world that has perpetuated the idea of mental health, mental illness, therapy, and counseling as something you do only if you’re one step away from jumping off a bridge, talking to imaginary people, or licking paint off the walls. As a mental health professional, I want you to know that this is not the truth.
Physical, mental, and emotional well-being are all essential aspects of being healthy individuals. Some of us are better at various well-being aspects and that may vary from day to day. Counseling is an opportunity to talk to someone, be listened to, and process issues that are weighing heavy on your mind without feeling judged and without feeling as if the minute you tell someone how you feel or think that everyone will know or immediately commit you to an insane asylum. The job of your therapist is not to judge you, make decisions for you, or tell you how to think and feel. These are also common misconceptions of therapy. Ideally, counseling should be a safe space where you can discuss issues and emotions openly and honestly. Also, everyone has different goals. The reason one person seeks counseling may vary completely from the reason another person does.
So, what are some reasons to consider talking to a counselor? Well, pick something, and it’s probably something that has been discussed in a counselor’s office. Obviously, the major players come to mind: If you feel anxious, depressed, or suicidal, counseling is an option for getting help to alleviate these issues and co-occurring symptoms. However, there are many other issues that lead people to seek counseling:
- Parenting- Are you having difficulty with your teenager, infant, toddler, or grown child in transition? Are you needing advice on how to assist your child with certain behaviors (or misbehaviors)? Are you in need of someone to talk to or listen about the struggle of keeping it together as a parent? Are you worried you are screwing up you kid by ____?
- Sexuality- Are you struggling to come out to loved ones? Are you struggling with gender identity or transitional issues? Are you struggling with romantic intimacy or sexuality within your relationship?
- Women’s issues- Are you having a hard time transitioning to becoming a parent, getting married, going through menopause, getting engaged, or getting pregnant? Are you struggling with feminism issues? Do you feel overly emotional or have difficulty getting along with other women/men?
- Men’s issues- Are you the angry guy? Do you feel disconnected in your relationships? Do you struggle with success or lack thereof? Are you having a hard time transitioning in some role?
- Marriage counseling- Is there an issue in your relationship that continuous leads you and your partner to arguments? Are you considering leaving your spouse/partner? Do you feel desperate to save your marriage? Have you/your partner struggled with fidelity or moving forward given your partner’s infidelity? Do you disagree on major life decisions, such as work, location, having children, etc.?
- Self-esteem- Do you binge eat or have another eating disorder? Do you feel worthless or inferior? Are you struggling with body image or other intrinsic self-esteem issues (i.e. not athletic enough, smart enough, pretty enough)?
- Children/Teens- Does your child have difficulty fitting in with peers, making friends, or getting along socially? Does your child have problems identifying and talking about their emotions or thoughts? Does your child have behavioral problems at school that are resulting in poor grades, suspensions, or fights? Do you have a child that is anxious, worries often, or is sad a lot? Does your child have issues transitioning to middle school, high school, college, or the post graduate work force? Does your child feel pressured to use drugs, have sex, or make difficult decisions that may have negative consequences? Is your child always angry, irritable, or annoyed and refusing to talk to you (the parent)?
- Trauma- Have you been abused? Keep in mind that abuse comes in many forms: mental, emotional, physical, and sexual. Have you experienced a natural disaster? Are you struggling to get out of or move beyond an abusive relationship?
- “I just need someone to talk to.”- Feel like no one in your life listens….really listens? Feel like no one understands or that everyone judges? Feel as if you have trouble communicating your thoughts and feelings to those around you? Do you just need an outlet to vent your daily work, parental, marital, or other forms of stress?
- Communication- Do you have difficulty expressing yourself in a way that others understand what you mean, your perspective, or what your goal is? Do you feel you are too passive or too aggressive? Do you get angry or feel as if everytime you try to talk to someone it turns into an argument? Do you have difficulty formulating ideas?
This list is only the beginning. I have heard every issue, question, and bullet point on multiple occasions throughout my career as a counselor thus far. There are so many reasons that people seek counseling, most of which are normal, everyday issues that many people encounter. “Crazy” people are NOT the only ones who come to counseling. And, to put your mind at ease, many mental health professionals have counselors themselves.
Confidentiality is a big deal in the mental health world. Aside from harm to yourself or someone else, whatever issues you discuss within the confines of a counseling session are confidential. Confidential means that your therapist is not telling anyone else. There is something comforting in that. Everyone needs support and every needs to feel as if they have a safe space in which they can discuss issues they are struggling to think through or a safe person in whom they can confide. If you need someone to talk to, I’d love to listen.