There is something incredibly exciting about going to a high street book store and becoming completely absorbed in the ‘Wellbeing’ section of self-help books. They promise so much; for about a tenner you can discover a revolutionary new way of living your life! It’s like getting tired of your old clothes and going out to buy a whole new wardrobe; your aim is to revamp your appearance and to feel like a new person.
The irony is that most of us become strangely drawn to these different concepts and, rather than actually adopting one and applying it to our life for the rest of our life, we try it out for a few weeks and then get bored with it. We enjoy the dynamic way of being and how it renews us; but like most new things, the novelty wears off and it can become a chore.
The world of ‘affirmations’ is a great example of this. It’s a simple concept, has scientific reasoning to back it up and promises pretty much whatever the user wants from it. But for the self-help junkie, it eventually becomes just another technique to add to their existing collection. When life’s difficulties creep back in, one may feel the lure of the bookshop again.
And back to the shelves the self-help seeker returns, looking for their next fix. The heart rate quickens as they thumb through pages of promises: from chapters about inordinate confidence and financial success to the diagrammatic science of the subconscious mind. Whilst absorbing endless paragraphs from these different books, the customer is transported into an amazing land of their wildest dreams. The process of choosing the perfect book is in itself a form of escapism.
One thing that has to be questioned is whether these books are real sustenance for actual development or whether, like junk food, they leave one feeling under-nourished and in need of something else. The size of the self-help market would suggest that it’s the latter. As interesting as these books can be, they are restricted to offering a one-size fits all approach. They are simply unable to put the reader at their heart. This is where the difference with counselling lies.
Counselling is a bespoke service, tailor-made to the needs of the client and everything that the client brings with them. It does not seek to provide a quick-fix or a temporary high. It is a very real relationship with another human being that aims to effect life-changing results. Reading about the latest dynamic life-enhancing techniques is a great pass-time, but for real change, one will most likely benefit from personal counselling.
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Imi Lo: Psychotherapist, Art Therapist, Supervisor (MMH,UKCP,HCPC,MBPsS)March 29th, 2015
Keeley Townsend BA (Hons), Ad.Dip.CP with Distinction, MNCS (Acc)December 14th, 2009
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