Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Stigma of Counseling...




 
stig·ma
noun \ˈstig-mə\
plural stig·ma·ta or stig·mas
1
a archaic : a scar left by a hot iron : brand
b : a mark of shame or discredit : stain <bore the stigma of cowardice> c : an identifying mark or characteristic; specifically : a specific diagnostic sign of a disease

 (from Merriam and Webster Dictionary: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/stigma)


Counseling, as beneficial and available it may be to many individuals, it’s still considered a taboo process; Especially for certain cultures. The stigma that counseling carries affects old and young, black and white, male and female individuals who struggle with the difficulty of admitting "I need counseling". Why might counseling have a negative stigma attached?

  1. Counseling means I have a problem.

Many people struggle with making that first phone call or inquiry to counseling services because to them if you need counseling, you are admitting that you have a concern. Many individuals avoid admitting they have any issues, concerns or difficulties simply due to PRIDE and FEAR. I tend to thank individuals for their humility and courage in realizing that their mental health, their family, their jobs, etc., means more to them than the pride & fear of sitting in the dark struggling with your problems alone.

      2.    Counseling means I have to tell my personal business to another person.


Think about a secret you may have, either no one knows or only a few chosen friends know of it. Chances are you may have refrained from telling others because you are ashamed, embarrassed and/or hurt by this secret or you are afraid of how it may affect your relationships with others, being judged or humiliated. One of the greatest attributes in counseling is that it’s bound by its ethics and legality to keep what is discussed CONFIDENTIAL*. In addition to confidentiality, you are able to comfortably address issues with someone who is UNBIASED and unable to JUDGE. This means that an individual in counseling is able to receive feedback from a counselor who is able to provide them with an honest and respectful opinion/solution from a different perspective that the individual may not have even considered.

      3.       People will think I’m crazy.


Many individuals are fearful to go to counseling because of the biggest stigma; ONLY PEOPLE WITH SERIOUS ILLNESSES go to therapy. Blame this stigma on television and movies that adapt exaggerated views of how therapy takes place. Yes, individuals who are clinically diagnosed with more severe disorders go to counselors (and psychiatrists), HOWEVER, according to Christian Care Connection’s blog, here are the top (5) reasons why individuals seek counseling:
·         Down moods and depression
·         Marriage or other relationship problems
·         Low self-esteem
·         Need to understand themselves better
·         Feel anxious and / or suffering panic attacks
 (From Christian Care Connection: http://www.christiancareconnection.com/top-10-reasons-for-counseling/)

Notice that the list contains average struggles that everyone goes through from time to time.

I believe the purpose of counseling is to help individuals who are dealing with their issues gain clarity about themselves, use goal oriented treatment to change their behaviors and provide them with SUPPORT through their journey. 

SUPPORT in my opinion is one of the greatest attributes of a counselor, and providing ENCOURAGEMENT in my opinion is one of my greatest tools as a counselor.

All in all, avoid getting bogged down in the stigma of counseling – and realize that you don’t have to deal with life’s complications and challenges alone. Humans are not built to deal with concerns alone but rather to communicate and encourage one another as we each go through difficult seasons in our life.

Counseling is YOU time. Many individuals don’t get the time to focus on themselves and their needs as they have others they are also concerned with and assisting. I stand by the notion that ‘In order to help someone else be stable, you need to be healthy and stable’. This includes mental health!

Are you going through a difficult season right now? Do you have various concerns/desires you want to address/achieve? Life’s stressors and unbalances affecting your life negatively? Do you think counseling will be beneficial for you? Click HERE to complete an online/confidential inquiry to get more information or to schedule a session today!


* Limits to confidentially include: reports of harm to self or others, abuse of child/vulnerable adult, and court ordered subpoenas.