Following last month’s World Mental Health Day, Lucy Parker from FLOW, who is also a qualified counsellor, busts some common myths that might just be stopping you from getting the help you need…
Around a third of adults and young people said their mental health has got much worse since March 2020*. So, what are we doing about it? Maybe you are thinking of starting a course of counselling but find something is stopping you. Or you’re not sure where to start, what to expect, or feel nervous about what others might think. Or perhaps you’ve been prescribed short-term counselling and feel that it hasn’t hit the spot. Whatever your situation I thought it would be helpful to answer some common questions that might just help you to make that all-important first step…
1. Counsellors don’t counsel
If you decide to work with a counsellor, you’ll not be given advice or told what to do. You might find that counsellors don’t ‘do’ very much. They listen, reflect, and support in a non-judgemental, neutral, and empathic way. In a busy, noisy world being truly seen and heard for who you are is a powerful experience that can have surprising results.
2. It is called work for a reason
Although we might want to be told what to do, that won’t happen. Neither will it all be tissues and tears. You’ll be encouraged to do the work and dig deep. Understanding, processing, and accepting your life events can be hard work. It’s also rewarding, motivating and life-changing. 1 in 4 people will experience mental health problems of some kind each year* so this is your opportunity to do the work and be the one who reaps the rewards.
3. You won’t be asked to lie down on a therapy couch
Freud’s therapy couch fortunately went out of vogue some time ago. These days, you’ll be seated in a comfortable, and private therapy room. Perhaps a little like the one pictured of Embarks therapy rooms in Tunbridge Wells. You’ll be in control of your session and can decide what you want to discuss and when. You’re in the driving seat of your life with your therapist there to help navigate the way.
4. You don’t have to have a specific ‘problem’
There’s no requirement to start therapy because of a specific ‘problem’ or ‘issue’. There’s no hierarchy and no reason to feel that your needs are any less important than anyone else’s. In fact, according to the charity Mind, 1 in 5 adults did not seek support during the pandemic because they didn’t think their problem was serious enough*. You are the expert on you and if you suspect working with a therapist will be beneficial, go on and make that call.
5. Remember you are not alone
Many recent events, such as the Covid pandemic or the cost-of-living crisis, affect us all. However similar the experiences may be, our responses to them can be dramatically different. This is particularly true for specific groups, such as LGBTQIA+, homeless people, young people, or the elderly who often feel alone. It is known that 1 in 5 people have suicidal thoughts with 1 in 14 self-harming*. Therapy can help to alleviate feelings of isolation and help develop a sense of community and connection.
6. Pain and stress can feel the same
Stress can show up in physical pain as much as in emotional or mental ill health. Pain can be hugely destabilising and distressing, much like anxiety and depression. Sometimes talking about your situation, being heard, and having your experience validated can be enough to reduce the intensity of your day-to-day painful experiences.
7. You deserve it!
Marianne Williamson famously said, “It is our light, not our darkness that frightens us”. We can be quick to belittle ourselves, deny our feelings and question our need for help. We feel broken, without hope and allow ourselves to become consumed by the darkness. Yet you do deserve to heal and to see the light, we all do! After all, the word health derives from the Old English ‘haelth’ meaning whole. Counselling offers a space to feel empathetically heard and unconditionally valued which is a powerful healing medicine.
8. What about your body?
I am often heard saying that our bodies are more than taxis for our brains. Our bodies are brilliant, intelligent, and wise beyond the limitations of the brain. Our bodies have their own language of feelings, instincts, sensations, and perceptions that have something to say and a wider scope of understanding to offer. Ignore these messages at your peril as the body keeps the score on so many levels. Listen to your body and discover more layers of understanding to guide you on your journey towards self-discovery.
9. Wise or wounded, the choice is yours
Everyone has experienced difficulties, challenges, and losses. We lose loved ones through death or divorce, possessions through gambling or redundancies or dreams through physical or financial limitations or restrictions. Often these things are not in our capacity to change. However, what we can control is how we choose to react to them. Over time we can stay wounded by our experiences or gain wisdom because of them, learning and evolving as we go.
10. You’ve steadied your foundations, now it’s time to fly!
Some counsellors, including myself, are also trained in coaching. So, once you have thoroughly explored your past and feel grounded in the present, you now have another choice. The choice to redesign your evolution towards a brighter, more brilliant you. Coaching helps to look at your future and enables you to shape the course of your life in a direction of your choosing with you firmly at the helm.
A final thought, in the words of Goethe, “I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element.” Starting a course of counselling might just be the best decision you’ve ever made to understand your past, enjoy your present and ensure your future.
All statistics quoted are from the charity Mind*
HELP IS AT HAND
Places to go to find a therapist:
BACP – bacp.co.uk/search/Therapists
Counselling Directory – www.counselling-directory.org.uk/
Embark Counselling & Coaching with Lucy – embarkcounselling.co.uk/