What Counselling is like

I can’t begin to explain to you how afraid I was of seeking help for my mental health issues. I was terrified of the idea of seeing a psychologist, a counsellor or even a psychiatrist. What I can tell you is what a significant, positive impact it has had on my life. I’ve been in counselling ongoing for almost four years now, and I can confidently say that deciding to go was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life so far.

It can be absolutely mortifying to some people to open up to someone, tell them things that you’ve never told anyone before; it truly is on a whole other level of vulnerable. Know that they’re there for a reason. Counsellors want to help you, they went to school so that they can sit with you and help you work through what you’re going through.

Far too many people immediately picture Freud sitting in front of you taking notes, while you lay reclined in a black leather couch as he questions you about your relationship with your mother and father as a child. This image of “counselling” is completely inaccurate and a misconception. Counselling doesn’t look like that. I’ve seen eight different people from School counsellors, Trauma Counsellors, Psychologists and Psychiatrists in the past four years, and I can say that none of them looked like freud nor did they have a leather couch.

So this is for you, if you’re seeking counselling services for any number of reasons, if you’re afraid to see a counsellor and want to know what counselling is like or if you just want a (good???) read.

They can’t talk about you to their friends over a plate of nachos on Friday night.

Something that you should know, and that they’ll tell you is that they are legally obligated to tell no one what you share with them. The only time they are obligated to say something to somebody is if you or someone else is at risk to harm, or if you’re planning on hurting yourself or someone else. If you’ve ever seen a counsellor/Psychologist you’ll know that this is often mentioned and agreed upon in session #1.

They won’t ask upon meeting you “So what’s wrong with you?”

How comforting would that be? Like any relationship built on trust, they’ll introduce themselves to you, and they’ll expect you to do the same. It’s more than likely that they’ll ask you questions to prompt you to open up about your life. Not necessarily relating to the reason you ended up in their office, but things like what you do in your spare time? what you do for a living? or what you’re taking in school? Point is, is that they aren’t going to cut to the chase straight away, they know very well that it’s likely a sensitive topic, and that it takes some getting to know each other before you will be comfortable talking to them openly.

They won’t throw you in the deep end without a life jacket.

Lets be real, regardless of the reason that you ended up in their office, it will likely have triggers attached to it. A lot of counsellors will invite you to acknowledge when you feel triggered, especially when you’re with them, so that you can work through why it triggered you and how to handle yourself and your emotions/reactions when you’re feeling that way. While they may do this, they won’t do it without supporting you, and if they do, run like hell and find a better counsellor.

Counselling should be an open, acknowledging,  judgemental free place. 

While I’ve seen quite a few good counsellors, I’ve also seen a few that I wasn’t the biggest fan of. When I was first becoming depressed again I confided in a school counsellor and he couldn’t have cared less about what I had told hm. That really hurts me because I was reaching out for help, and he didn’t acknowledge how I was feeling, therefore not offering to help me. Not every counsellor will be like that, in fact I really haven’t had another person tell me “Yeah, we’ll get back to that”, so I can confidently say that most won’t be like that. While their job is to help you, you may not click with every counsellor right off the bat, or maybe at all, and that’s completely okay too. At the moment my current counsellor is 72 and our personalities clicked almost immediately. Point is, if you don’t feel comfortable with the person, or don’t like them, don’t give up on counselling. Seek out a new counsellor and try again, I promise it will help even if you don’t notice it right away.

You have to be willing to put in the work too.

If you can’t tell already, this blog isn’t about sugar coating things, and I’m not about to start now. To get better you need to WANT to get better. Even if it’s the most tiny, minuscule part of you that wants to improve, it’s there and that’s huge. Something that my counsellor in Victoria told me that she appreciated about me was that I was willing to put in the effort. I came to appointments, even if I felt like never leaving my bed agin, I’d drag my butt out of my nest and go to counselling. It showed me that even on my darkest days, I did something for me that was beneficial.  I don’t know if counsellors in the profession see it the same way I do, but I believe that most of counselling is you doing the work. You’re getting yourself there, you’re talking about things that trouble you and you’re willing to work through them. That’s all on you. Sure the counsellor’s there to support you and give you tools along the way, but it’s you that’s wanting to get better.

There’s always access to counselling services, regardless of income or social status.

A huge misconception is that counselling is only for those that can afford it. I know so many people that have neglected seeking out counselling even when they wanted to because they didn’t believe that they could afford it. Guess what? IT DOESN’T NEED TO COST $250 AN HOUR. A great way to start looking in to your options is checking in with your family doctor, they can suggest different services to suit your individual needs. I know that in Canada, BC specifically that there are multiple hotlines that offer counselling services over the phone. Some cities even have youth clinics that often offer counselling, Psychological and Psychiatric services for no charge. All post secondary schools have counsellors that are there for you to access, utilize them!

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, call 1-800-784-2433 (1-800-SUICIDE), or call your local crisis centre.

You have the strength to get through this, and I’m so proud of you for coming this far.

All my love,

Megan xx

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