by Maria Drohan, AS. Eng., MSW (Candidate), RSW
#1. Q - “Aren’t people just lying there on a couch?”
Well yes, some therapists have couches in their offices, but few will actually insist you lie down on it and look away from them. There are many offices with no couch too - only chairs and some tissue boxes. This perception of lying on a couch lingers because in the early beginnings of counseling, it was common for therapists to insist patients lie down on a couch and look away from them because they believed it made the patient more open, but it can really make it more difficult to bond with the therapist. But some people actually do prefer to recline or lie down on the couch to help them relax, and that’s okay! Most others simply prefer sitting face to face and talking. Ultimately, you should do whatever makes you feel comfortable so you can benefit fully from your session.
#2. Q – “Does therapy try to ‘fix’ you?”
This is a major misconception about counseling. Psychotherapy and counselling are different from most conventional medical treatments. With medical treatment, the best outcome is a cure where you eradicate the illness and ensure it doesn’t return. But the things that bring people to counselling are a little different. Life struggles, negative beliefs, and maladaptive behaviors are not simple viruses that can be cured. In therapy, we look at uncovering your strengths and use those to learn new skills that allow you to deal with the challenges in life more effectively. Therapy will not “cure” a client, but it will help build up inner and outer resources to better manage the ups and downs of life.
#3. Q – “Are you just going to ask me 'how does that make you feel?'”
This makes me laugh when I hear it. Of course, we are going to ask you how you feel because until we learn that, we can’t really help. Now, with that being said, there is a lot more to counselling than just feelings. Feelings, thoughts, experiences, behaviours, relationship dynamics and patterns, and so much more are looked at in counseling. Counselors can help clients define goals and action plans, and gain insight, as well as suggest supports and services that might be beneficial.
#4. Q – “Is counselling just for women?”
What person, male or female, doesn’t talk through a problem until the answer becomes clearer? Counselling is absolutely not just for women. Men are not immune to mental health issues or hard times. Men and women can equally benefit from counseling because mental health issues are part of being human. Because of the stigma that surrounds men and the “tough guys don’t need to talk about our feelings” mentality, it is very important that we encourage and support men who seek counseling because it is an effective tool to use in addressing mental health issues.
#5. Q – “You only do this for the money don’t you.”
Yes. Now let me explain this – counselors spend years and years getting educated and receiving training in order to be able to provide you with the best possible service. This takes time and energy, but it also takes passion. At the end of the day, therapists have families and bills just like everyone else, so making money is important; however, the love and passion we all have for helping people, as well as the excitement we experience when our clients improve… there is no paycheck that will top that feeling.
#6. Q – “If I'm your friend, why can't I come to you for counselling?
One of the most important things for us as therapists is to remain objective. In order to help you, we need to leave our biases, preconceived notions, and opinions out of the room and be impartial. What happens when we work with a client that we have known for a while is that sometimes, those biases can creep in, or our emotional attachments to that individual can sway our judgments. This can sometimes lead to a perceived power imbalances or other concerns. Think of this like a surgeon. Would he be allowed to operate on his friends or family? No, because ultimately this isn’t in the best interests of the client.
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