Psychology is still a relatively young science, and the idea of treating patients through counseling is even younger. The first psychological clinic was opened in 1896, and only after the advent of World War II did psychological treatment in a clinic become a widespread practice. The idea remained new however, and it took many years before it was accepted in the eyes of the public.
In the 1960s, it was considered a shameful act to send your children to counseling, and people went to great lengths to keep it a secret. Nowadays counseling is not quite as frowned upon. Modern society has improved a lot in the way we treat patients, but misconceptions and stigmas are still extremely common.
Let’s take a short look at some of the most common ones, and why they are incorrect.
- Going to psychologist is admitting that you are a failure, that you are weak
Facing your problems head-on and doing something about them is strength, ignoring them is not. A lot of people have the tendency to bottle up their problems and emotions, when that is the single worst thing that you can do. Talking to someone and sharing your emotions is not a sign a weakness, it is the active path towards fixing them. But before we answer that, ask your self this: what is a psychologist? and how can they help me with my problems.
- My reputation and ability to apply for jobs or schools will be damaged
Although openly talking about counseling is not as frowned upon anymore, it does not mean that you always have to share your experience. Confidentiality is a crucial part of a counselor’s relationships with his patients, and the law reflects this. Only in very special cases will a therapist be allowed to share information about his patient, for example if someone is convicted of a crime.
- Counseling is only for people with extreme mental illness or people in a crisis
It is certainly true that such people should seek counseling, but there are other reasons to do so as well. Couples or marital counseling is very common and is often effective. People who are dealing with issues that they have trouble speaking about also seek counseling. There are lots of reasons for counseling, most of them are not life or death situations, but that does not mean that they are unnecessary. You do not need an excuse to go for counseling, sometimes a small change in your life, someone positive to talk to, is all the reason you need.
- Psychology does not work
You may have heard from a friend or family member that counseling is a waste of time. That counseling did not help them. Anecdotal evidence of people who have not been helped by counseling does not discredit the whole practice or profession. Research is constantly being done to explore psychology and its practice, and a there is a lot of evidence which suggests that counseling is effective.
- Counselors will either say nothing or try to change who you are
Counselors do a lot of listening. That does not mean it is all that they do. They will give advice and ask questions, and try their best to steer you in a positive direction. Counseling is about you; you have to explore your thoughts, emotions, and experiences by yourself. The counselor is only there to guide you. You will not be given some rigid set of instructions or commands. In the end only you can decide on your actions, the counselor is there to guide you towards positive ones.