Any time new clients come to me for their first consultation, they have a worried look on their face. They avoid any eye-contact and take their time to talk. It is quite normal to feel weird or confused when visiting a psychologist or counsellor. Those who are well aware about therapy, blend in right away, for those who have never visited a psychologist, the first encounter could be very tricky.
Being a therapist, the most interesting challenge I have faced is to relax people for their first consultation. It is challenging because, the clients need to connect with me. “The first impression is the last impression.” This quote quite literally is applicable here. It’s a sensitive area to make the clients feel comfortable.
Therapy has evolved over past few years. It has become a lot more user friendly, however, certain inhibitions about counselling and therapy still remain fixated. In a country like India, people confuse certain words and their meaning. Counselling is brutally called advising or “information giving”. There is a lack of awareness and accurate information.
Therefore, in this article I wanted to share a few stereotypical threats people face when they have to make a decision to meet a psychologist or a counsellor.
- Are you “Mental”? – This is the first and the most primal issue or a threat that most people face when they decide to go to a psychologist or a counsellor. Timelessly counselling has tried to prove its worth to the world, in India people go to an astrologer to understand their issue, however, instead of asking “How do I deal with this issue?” they land up asking, “When will this issue leave or go away from my life?”. Going to an astrologer is not bad or wrong, but, one may never understand the source of their issue. A counsellor does not diagnose anybody as “Mental”. A counsellor is trained to help a person to accept and face the situation that they are in. People come to therapy for various reasons, most of them involve a change, it could be big or small. Counsellors are trained to help clients become more independent and fearless. They help their clients become more self-aware. The counsellor or Psychologist, does not make a diagnosis. The idea is to help people come out of their shell and not to push them further inside. So, a counsellor does not see you as “Mental”, neither do you become “Mental”, if you go to a counsellor.
- Do I have to continue therapy forever? – It truly depends on the depth of the issue and the arrangement between the clients and the counsellor. The number of sessions are usually decided during the first consultation or at the beginning of therapy. As therapy progresses, the duration of therapy depends on the flow and the improvement in the client. At times, the process is very fast at times it is really slow. There is no concrete way to decide that. Regardless, the idea is to the make a client independent, hence there is always a termination in therapy.
- “I go to a therapist!” – “Oh! That is really cool. I wish I could go to one too!”, Therapy – a lifestyle or life threat? –
There is always a concern of being judged! Therapy or counselling, changes your way of thinking. It liberates you, makes you a lot more responsible and you experience true independence. It encourages you to take a step outside of your comfort zone. Going to a therapist today, is a lifestyle choice. Everyone needs help and there is no shame in visiting a psychologist. When we visit the best surgeon or physician we make sure we broadcast it to the entire world, however, visiting a psychologist is always in secrecy. Psychologists are trained to keep the sessions private and confidential, therefore, fear of judgement should never be an issue.
- “Talking about my feelings is not really my thing” – This is the most common myth people have regarding Counselling and therapy. Counselling is not about “sharing or talking about how you feel”. It is about facing your fears, confronting your limitations, understanding about the best-case scenario. Yes, of course, feelings are discussed more often, however counselling does not revolve primarily on “Feelings”. You discover a lot of aspects about yourself, you find the courage to clear your mind and face the challenges of your crisis in a better way. Talking is a usual method nonetheless, it is not always about feelings, it is about what you want to do and what truly stops you from doing it. Many a times, you know what to do, yet, you seek a professional second opinion to cover all your basis and blind-spots, that is what you “Talk” about during a counselling session.
- Why should I go to a counsellor, isn’t that why we have friends? – That is true. Friends are amazing. Friends help you deal with almost anything you are going through. A hug, a smile, a walk, a shoulder to cry, having loving and caring friends is a true virtue. A friend however has a deeper connection to you, they may understand what you are going through, but may not really help you be objective about it. They may push you out of the bed and make sure you learn to live your life, but you need a professional help to make sure your pain goes away. A counsellor is not your friend, but a hired help who will walk beside you and help you get a better clarity of whatever you are going through. We are all emotional beings, we do not like to trouble our beloved ones, so when in need we do not call them making sure we don’t bug them. We are either too embarrassed or just care too much about others and simply don’t want to disturb them. A counsellor plays a crucial role in your life at that time. When in pain, we become overly sensitive and self-blame for anything wrong that has happened, a counsellor will help you in reminding that you are not alone in your pain and have people you can trust.
- Time will Heal my wounds – Time is a wonderful healer. A time-out gives a little perspective. Although we may confuse the two. A time-out is only for a couple of minutes or hours, time however, runs on a loop. It is true, time does heal even the most painful and unbearable wounds could be healed with time. Time has three important tenses, the past, the present and the future. If your wounds are not taken care of properly, time will take you back in the past, and prick you in all the wrong parts. If concentrated way too much in the future, time could either give you hope or take you in a black hole. The problem is about dealing with time in its present form. Visiting a counsellor will help you do exactly that, a counsellor works on your present and helps you get a balance between your past, present and future. Therefore, to allow time to heal you, you have to understand the dynamics of how it works, else it may take you forever to come out of the pain and grief!
- The psychologist will read my mind and my face – So here is the thing, whether you believe it or not, psychology is a science. There are various scientific researches and experiments conducted in the area of psychology almost every day, proving that it is a branch, a small nonetheless a very important branch of science. Face reading is not psychology nor is mind reading. Psychologists are trained to read, analyse the body language of the clients and address it, therefore there are times when the psychologist probably is able to tell you, what is going on in your mind. There are various theories that help psychologists analyse and understand the meaning behind certain emotions and statements. Psychologists are not telepathic.
- I tried counselling earlier and it was bad – Well, it happens very rarely that the first impression about counselling or therapy can go wrong. Since in counselling two people are involved, there is always a chance that there might be a dispute or a difficulty in rapport building. However, this should not frighten you or stop you from seeing another psychologist. To avoid these unfortunate encounters, it is always important to check the professional, educational background of your therapist. Psychologists are individuals as well and despite their professional training each psychologist has a different style of counselling, there is a slight possibility we may not be comfortable with their style of counselling. Another reason therapy goes sideways is when you choose the wrong kind of therapist. There are specialities within therapy. Usually it is included in the profile of the psychologist, if they fit with your query only then proceed further, if you feel they may not understand your problem you can always choose to go to someone else. However, please do not be very hasty to judge all psychologists to be the same!
- Therapists are expensive – This is the most unacceptable reason why people avoid therapy. It is also a myth. In India, an average charge of a counselling psychologist starts from INR 500 it may exceed depending on the psychologist, however not all psychologists and counsellors are expensive. Psychologists have to complete at least their master’s degree after their under-graduation to be eligible to start seeing clients. A psychologist spends 45 mins to an hour with each client, on several occasions the timings exceed beyond 1 hour for which they client may or may not charge.
Counselling is a really stressful job. It requires a lot of patience. Since most cases have depression or an emotional issue to talk about, it becomes essential for a counsellor to unwind and relax. Therapists also need therapy. Therapy or counselling like any other profession expects its clients to pay the fees for the entire package of a qualified psychologist – the time and the disorder. Therefore, it would be unethical to call it an expensive profession without understanding it.