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What's the point of counselling and psychotherapy?

Some misconceptions about counselling and psychotherapy

Do you feel ashamed if you break a leg? Probably not. Do you feel ashamed of asking for help from a counsellor or psychotherapist? Maybe.

Despite one in four taking antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication in the UK, a stigma is still attached to mental health and well-being. Mental health services are in crisis even though it is estimated that the need for improved services is the same as for physical health problems. Ignoring the need of those suffering from emotional and mental disturbances and the pain attached - which can be worse than physical pain - leads to increased suicides, homelessness, anti-social behaviour, drug and alcohol addiction and feeling a social outcast.

As a counselling psychotherapist I often have clients who have spent most of their life undiagnosed, even though symptoms of a psychiatric condition were obvious, for example, with bi-polar depression. Stigma and misunderstanding a counsellor's role in mental health care is common and the following statements were made to me when I worked in the NHS. Private clients, on the whole, understand therapy and so their resistance to the process of therapy is much less.

See if you can relate to any of the following statements, if you haven't seen a counsellor or psychotherapist but are thinking of doing so:

  • How can someone else know what I need to do to change my life?
  • People will think I’m a nutcase if I see a counsellor!
  • Counselling is a lot of rubbish!
  • Counselling is a waste of money!
  • My family and friends will think I’m mentally ill.
  • I don’t want people to know I’m seeing a counsellor
  • Do you tell anyone else what I tell you?
  • Counsellors are more dysfunctional than the people they help!
  • We never had counselling in my day – we just got on with it - and we survived!
  • Counsellors should have all the answers and tell me what to do!

It should be noted that all of the clients who have uttered and muttered these statements changed their perception of counselling, once they understood that counselling offers useful tools they can use to help themselves throughout life.

Changing perception of who you are and what you're capable of increases self-confidence and self-belief. Yes, if a mental health disorder is present you may need medication from a psychiatrist, but then a categorised disorder benefits from counselling and psychotherapy very often with medication.

You don't have to feel alone. Even if you think you may have a more serious mental heath problem, a counsellor or psychotherapist can refer you to your GP for a psychiatric referral and diagnoses. 

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Written by Jennifer Hope-Spencer UKCP Reg., Reg.BACP, PGC Supervision, BUPA, AXA-PPP reg.

I have practiced as a counsellor and psychotherapist for over twenty years and worked with clients in the NHS, privately and with EAP schemes. Clients bring similar basic issues: anxiety, depression (anger and sadness), frustration, guilt, poor self-esteem, self-image, identity and worth, all of which results in loss of confidence and self-belief.… Read more

Written by Jennifer Hope-Spencer UKCP Reg., Reg.BACP, PGC Supervision, BUPA, AXA-PPP reg.

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