Common counseling myths that simply are not true

Talk of counseling often stirs up a range of opinions and reactions. Many of these views are shaped by misconceptions. Some are rooted in stigma, while others are from misinformation. Such myths can deter individuals who might greatly benefit from speaking to someone, and this article aims to dispel those common myths about counseling. Here are a few such myths:

Counseling is only for serious mental health issues

There is a widespread belief that counseling is only for severe mental health issues, and this simply is not true. Counseling can be a useful tool for people facing a whole host of different challenges in their lives — not just those with serious mental health problems.

One example is that many people find counseling to be beneficial when going through life transitions, and these do not even have to be negative transitions. While things like graduating college or getting married are happy and fulfilling parts of life, they can also be times of upheaval. They represent that things are going to change, and that can be stressful. Counselors can provide support and guidance on how best to cope with the emotional impact this has on our daily lives.

Counseling is a sign of weakness

Many people have heard someone somewhere refer to counseling as a sign of weakness. It is unfortunately a common thought from people who do not know much about it. In reality, seeking out counseling is the opposite of weakness. It actually requires great strength and courage to reach out for help — especially to those struggling with mental health issues. By taking responsibility for one’s well-being and initiating personal growth through counseling, they are showing strength and determination in improving themselves — not weakness. 

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Counselors are highly skilled and well-educated. Graduates from online doctoral programs in counseling, such as the course on offer at AIC, are trained to foster an environment that encourages vulnerability as a strength — which is a good thing because it is.

Many successful individuals use counseling as a tool for self-improvement and managing stress levels so they can perform at their best. Professional athletes like Michael Phelps and Lindsey Vonn have used therapy to cope with anxiety, while renowned business leader Arianna Huffington credits counseling for helping her find balance in her life.

Counseling takes forever

One common myth about counseling is that it takes forever. Many people believe that once they start talking to a counselor, they will never be done. Once again, this is not true. The length of counseling can vary for several reasons. Everybody is different and working through different challenges, but in general, research shows that most treatments are relatively short-term — about half of patients recover after 15–20 sessions, on average.

In more challenging cases — like those with severe mental health issues or trauma — counseling may last considerably longer. There are also short-term treatments that exist for those who want quick solutions or advice without a long commitment of time or money. The key thing to remember is that everybody’s situation is different. No matter what type of therapy one seeks out, they have options and can create a plan with their counselor based on their personal needs and timeline.

The counselor will fix all problems

Counselors are not miracle workers. They are extremely talented people who can have a significant positive impact on people’s lives, but they cannot ‘fix’ issues. Think of a counselor as more like a coach or facilitator than a problem solver. Their job is to help clients gain insight into their own emotions and behaviors so they can find solutions on their own. Counseling is an active process, meaning it requires work from both the therapist and the client in order to achieve progress. 

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Finding the right counselor is important. They will guide the client through identifying any underlying issues that may be causing distress and then explore new ways of thinking about those issues. The end goal is to help them develop coping skills for navigating difficult situations independently in the future. Counseling is an ongoing process of learning about oneself that helps foster personal growth.

Counseling is only for people who have no one to confide in

There are a lot of different reasons to engage a counselor. They are highly qualified professionals with specialist training in mental healthcare, as well as an understanding of psychological theories. They also provide objective guidance when working through difficult topics and feelings — something that friends and family members may struggle with. Professional boundaries also mean that clients can speak openly without worrying about any repercussions afterward. This could be in the form of gossip — either in the workplace or in a friend group — or advice given by friends or family members.

In addition to the objective advice offered by counselors, counseling also allows us to look at our lives objectively. We can gain insight into behavior patterns and uncover why certain situations cause distress or unhappiness, allowing us to move forward positively with greater self-awareness and confidence. It also provides time away from everyday life stressors, allowing us to think more deeply about ourselves without any external pressures. It is also important to note that while there are many benefits to seeing a counselor, their role should not be seen as a replacement for relationships and support within our lives — but rather a supplement to it.

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Final thoughts

The myths debunked in this article are just a few of many. Unfortunately, many myths persist around counseling, but hopefully this article demonstrates how beneficial counseling can be for anyone, regardless of their situation. It is important that one’s understanding of counseling is accurate for many reasons. The obvious one is in case someone decides to seek out a counselor themselves, but there may also be someone close to them that can benefit.

Taking the first step towards personal growth through counseling can be intimidating, but many resources are available with qualified professionals ready to help with the journey. By understanding why these myths are wrong, readers can help spread awareness about common misconceptions surrounding counseling and empower more people to take control of their wellbeing.

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