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Last Updated on December 1, 2021 by Randy Withers, LCMHC
Since going to a counseling session is an inherently private affair, it can be difficult to learn from other people’s experiences and get an idea of what to expect. Considering counseling can feel like you are trying to make a decision blind without knowing what you’re signing up for.
Here, we take a look at three common misconceptions about counseling, to help you make a decision that works best for you.
Common Misconceptions About Counseling
1. Counseling is only for the mentally ill
Mental Health Counselors (i.e., therapists) are highly trained and licensed professionals who can diagnose and treat both mental and substance use disorders. But those aren’t the only reasons people seek therapy.
While it’s true that counseling can be beneficial for those who struggle with a mental illness such as depression or anxiety, all of us deal with life issues that can be overwhelming when we try to handle them on our own.
Job changes, relationship struggles, and self-esteem enhancement are just some of the many reasons people seek counseling. It can also be hugely helpful for those struggling with complex issues, such as self-doubt, workplace stress, or phobias. If life has thrown you a curveball, consider talking to a counselor. You’ll be glad you did.
Going to counseling can be an important step in strengthening your relationship with yourself and with other people. It offers a safe space for you to be open and truly honest about your feelings, allowing you to get out of your comfort zone and talk about any feelings that you may be bottling up inside.
Your counselor can also offer you an objective view of the situation you’re in, and help you to take a step back to gain a better perspective. Working on this will help you better handle similar situations in the future, and learn how to better express yourself.
Couples counseling is also a valuable investment in your romantic relationships, especially if you struggle to articulate your feelings to your partner.
These sessions aren’t just for couples who want to work through specific, important issues. Relationship counseling can improve your communication as a couple, and give you a neutral space to air out any differences in opinion, no matter how big or small.
2. Your counselor will judge you
Of all the misconceptions about counseling people believe, this one bugs me the most.
They won’t. At least, not in a way you’ll find unhelpful. Counselors are trained to assess and diagnose. It’s not the same thing as being “judged.”
They will listen to you and keep a neutral tone and face. They will demonstrate empathy and make you feel welcome. Your counselor is a trained professional. They are there to help you, not make you feel worse.
It’s also likely that no matter what you bring to your sessions, they’ll be more concerned about helping you work through it than judging the morality of your life. Counselors work with people from all walks of life, so there’s no need for you to feel weird, or worry they won’t want to continue your sessions.
Counseling is a judgment-free zone.
3. If counseling didn’t work for you before, it won’t work now
Just like other people, not all counselors are made the same. It’s important to find a counselor that you can trust and feel comfortable speaking to, in order to get the most out of your sessions.
Not all approaches or styles suit everyone, and it might just be that you haven’t found the right one for you yet.
If you ever feel your therapist isn’t working out, don’t just ghost them. Politely let them know that you don’t want to continue your sessions, and be prepared to explain why, if they ask. It’s best to tackle this at the beginning of your session, so that you have time to talk about it if you need, and the anxiety of telling them doesn’t affect the value you get out of that time.
You’re allowed to change counselors, and it’s important that you find someone that makes you feel comfortable.
When you start the hunt for your new counselor, think about what it was that put you off your last one. Was it that you would have preferred online sessions, rather than in person? Did you struggle to get an appointment? Did you just not like their style?
While the latter is a little tricky to work out before an appointment, you should be able to establish with a bit of research.
For the last point, ask if they offer a free consultation, or if you can speak to them first over the phone. Alternatively, check in with yourself after your first session, and review whether you feel the session went well.
The thought of getting help may be scary, but by busting these misconceptions about counseling, hopefully you’ll feel more confident about considering whether some sessions can benefit you.
Remember, counseling is a wonderful show of commitment to yourself and your continued growth. Don’t let bad information or even bad experiences keep you from becoming the best person you can be.
Where it is online or in-person, counseling changes lives. Are you ready to change yours?