A few instant thoughts that unsettle most of the people when they hear the word counselling or therapy comprise of “I can resolve my concerns myself why should I talk to someone who knows nothing about me”, “Will I be perceived as insane or psycho if I consult a therapist”, “What if my colleagues at work get to know about my counselling visits that will tarnish my image at work” etc. Working as mental health professionals’ one major challenge we face today is that of clearing the myths about seeking help. Maybe the hesitation persists because there are a few dilemmas that are yet to be addressed. Let us help you understand the need, benefit and intricacies of a counselling process better.
What Is Counselling And Why Do We Need It?
Counseling is a talk therapy that allows a person to share his/her difficult feelings and problems in a confidential environment.
A need for counselling arises when anyone, no matter what age, gender or cultural background struggles with any personal concern ( family discord, marital difficulty, relationship issues, work difficulty, loss, identity, parenting or self-related concern like anger, assertiveness, low self-confidence and the like).
A counselor is not there to advise or direct on matters that bother a person. The whole idea of counseling is to EMPOWER individuals through rationalizing of thoughts & feelings. Hence a counselor will encourage you to share in a safe and confidential environment, will listen to you intently, understand why you feel a certain way and then help you identify negative thought patterns and replace them with positive thoughts. You will discover coping mechanism and identify plan of action to address your concerns.
When a person wants to explore in depth the way he/she reacts, behaves and feels about such concerns, counselling offers a safe space to find a resolve.
It is a relief sometimes to be true to ourselves and ask for help rather than suffer alone in silence.
Is It Really Effective?
“A client receiving psychotherapy is better off than 79% of clients who do not.”- Dr. Robert Rosenthal, Harvard University
Counselling & Therapy have been known to be very effective in helping with a variety of challenges most of us face, be it Relationship Challenges, Depression, Anxiety, Stress as therapies help in building resilient coping mechanisms and empower us.
Empathy, Perspective, Challenging of Negative Thought patterns are some core fundamentals of Counselling & Therapy.
Breakups, marital concerns, childhood experiences, Loneliness or work-life balance, all the stress-inducing events in our life bring a range of common symptoms - stress, low self-confidence or anxiety and sometimes even depression.
Some of the clients terminate therapy right after 2 sessions because of the overwhelming recall of pain, or inability to challenge or confront the unhealthy thought pattern that they have been practicing all the while to deal with the stressful situation. Similar to physiotherapy, for psychotherapy to be effective, it needs consistent effort from both counsellor and client.
Acceptance is the first step to healing, followed by practicing healthy coping techniques. It takes a lot of effort to come out of the self-defeating pattern, wherein it is the responsibility of the counselor to give them a safe space and unconditional regard to relearn new and healthy ways to deal and see the world.
How Does Counseling Help?
How It Can Help Me, My Relationship & My Health
Coronory Heart Disease and other heart related concerns are linked to elevated stress levels. Coaching and Therapy for day to day stressors can help in preventing a lot of health issues
Some people want to address all their issues like how to parent better or how to quit smoking.While the others wish to make a slight improvement in their lives by honing certain skills of being more mindful in relationships.
The tenure of therapy is based on the intensity of concern and the individual’s propensity towards change. Therefore, benefiting in all areas of life through counselling is real and possible.
Myths About Counselling
Myth #1- Therapy will provide solutions to my problem instantly
Fact - Usually the common understanding of therapy is like that of a band aid that is short term quick fix whereas in reality therapy is a long term healing process of emotional wounds caused by past hurts that we carry in our present life situations.
It is a process which an individual undergoes along with their counsellor to explore their concerns, its origin, and how it can be overcome. It happens over a series of sessions where the client and therapist work together to get a deeper understanding of the root cause, it’s impact, and how it can be overcome to feel better.
Myth #2- Therapy is only for severe mental health conditions or crisis situations
Fact - This is a common misconception that therapy is only for psychological disorders or crisis. Sadly, people avail therapy when there concerns have become severe and have started impacting their daily functioning. However something as common as day to day stress can be addressed in therapy before it prolongs and turns into a bigger concern.
Therapy is a tool for developing awareness about recurrent patterns of thoughts and feelings that we experience that tends to affect in the way we approach life situations because psychology acknowledges that many of our struggles are deep rooted in our childhood experiences.
There are many reasons for seeking professional help; the following are a few of them:
Myth #3- After therapy I won’t face stress or same problems?Fact -
However as the saying goes “pain is inevitable but suffering is optional” hence therapy may not make us immune to stress but it can help us to get in touch with our inner strength or formulate coping strategies that can equip us to deal with those hardships in a healthy manner.
Myth#4- Therapy isn’t necessary when I can just take medication
Fact - Therapy takes more time and is more challenging than taking a pill and most of us wish to seek a quick fix solution when we are in distress.
Our body and mind are interdependent and influence each other. Whenever we face distress of any form, medicine will relieve the physical pain whereas therapy deals with cognitions and distressing emotions associated with it like anxiety, anger, fear, depression, guilt etc. Our thoughts have the capacity to perpetuate that pain. In order to achieve total wellbeing, both physical and emotional factors need to be focussed upon.
Myth# 5- I can speak to my family, friends or even my physician. Then why do I need a mental health professional?
Fact - Our social network can be a great source of emotional support during tough times however certain factors can create barrier in sharing our struggles with them:
In such cases therapy provides a safe space without any judgements where a person can speak their heart out without hesitation. Also a therapist with professional training and expertise would be better able to link how our behaviour might be stemming from previous experiences and help in self discovery and introspection in order to change unhealthy thought patterns and behaviours.
The Heart & Soul of Change: What Works in Therapy. Edited by Mark A. Hubble, Barry L. Duncan, Scott D. Miller, 1999. ISBN 155798557X. American Psychological Association
Burlingame, G.M., Fuhriman, A., & Mosier, J. (2003). The differential effectiveness of group psychotherapy: A meta-analytic perspective. Group dynamics: Theory, research & practice, 2, 101-117. DOI: 10.1037/1089-26184.108.40.206
Building a Coaching Culture (2014) coachfederation.org/about/landing.cfm?ItemNumber=3674&navItemNumber=3675
Shedler, J. (2010). The efficacy of psychodynamic psychotherapy. American Psychologist, 65, 98-109. DOI: 10.1037/a0018378
Kovacs, A. H., Silversides, C., Saidi, A., & Sears, S. F. (2006). The role of the psychologist in adult congenital heart disease. Clinical Cardiology, 24, 607-618.
World Health Organization (2013). Cardiovascular Diseases (CVDs) fact sheet. Retrieved from www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs317/e n/index.html
Vessey, J. T., & Howard, K. I. (1993). Who seeks psychotherapy? Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 30(4), 546-553.
Disclaimer: Please note that we are not a crisis intervention helpline. Should you have severe symptoms or have thought about harming yourself, please seek immediate medical help or call suicide prevention helplines such as
Aasra 24x7 Helpline: 91-22-27546669