Miss Psychobabble: Busting the Myths of Counseling

I had a great opportunity to attend an insightful Counseling talk by Ms. Priscilla Lee at The School of Positive Psychology.  It opened my eyes to how counseling is viewed in Singapore or Asia for that matter.

The stigma that our society attached to counseling hinders individuals (especially those who need it the most) to seek professional help.  People do not want to go to counseling because they are afraid to be labeled as mentally ill or called crazy by others.  This fear of being judge impedes healthy recovery.

It’s important to highlight that counseling sessions are private and confidential unless your behavior harms yourself or others.  In fact, counseling records are protected by law and are separate from academic records. Here are other myths that need to be busted:

Myth #1  Counseling is for the weak and crazy people only.
Admitting that you need help and taking the needed action takes a whole lot of guts and strength.  Counseling can be helpful not only for people who are conquering their mental health conditions but also for everyday problems that we all face.

Myth #2  Counselors are like magicians --- they can magically cure all your problems.
Counseling is not a quick fix for all your problems.  It's a gradual and in-depth process that may even years to produce change.  The counselor needs time to build the relationship and uncover unresolved issues that can be difficult if the client is unwilling to share significant life experiences.

Myth #3  The counselor isn’t with me everyday.  He/She doesn’t know me and cannot help me.
One reason why counseling by unrelated professional is successful is because people who surround you every day such as your friends and family might have biases, attached emotions and other intentions that can affect their judgement.  This is why surgeons cannot operate on their relatives.

Myth #4 The counselor cannot understand my problem because he/she doesn’t have the same culture and experiences.I can’t deny the fact that even if we all live in one country, Singapore has diverse cultures.  This is why racial harmony is highly valued.  Counselors are trained to be empathic and sensitive to the views, religion and culture of others.

Myth #5  Being a counselor is an easy job.
Counseling is a challenging yet fulfilling job that involves both listening, thinking and observing simultaneously (more of that here: http://sgpsychstuff.blogspot.sg/2013/05/for-therapy-thinker-and-observer.html).  It is very tiring to multi-task everything while conceptualizing the case in one’s head.  Also, counselors will not tell you what to do, but they will guide you to your goals.  If you are interested in starting your journey as a counselor, here is the list of schools that offer diploma in counseling: http://sgpsychstuff.blogspot.sg/2012/11/diploma-specialisation.html.

So having known all these, what is counseling?
As a client, counseling is a provision of professional assistance in resolving one’s personal or psychological difficulties.

As a professional, counseling involves countless hours of rapport building, listening, comforting and being there for your client in every step of his/her journey towards his/her solving a personal problem or reaching a realistic goal.  Counselors shall be non-judgmental, sensitive, and experienced.  Also you must keep in mind that no matter how hard you try, you cannot save everybody!