Have you ever heard someone say something like, “only weak people go to counseling,” or “you aren’t a real man if you go to counseling,” or “first responders should be tough and going to counseling means they shouldn’t be doing their job,” or maybe even “only crazy people go to counseling”?
Are any of these true?
“Only weak people go to counseling.” On the contrary, it takes strength to decide you want better for yourself, bravery to accept that you have problems you can’t fix all on your own, courage to reach out for help and make that call, and mental fortitude to make the efforts, commitments, and life changes that counseling requires. In fact, only strong people go to counseling.
“You are not a real man if you go to counseling.” A real, well-adjusted man values self-improvement. A well-adjusted man understands that when there are skill sets or knowledge that he would like to acquire, it makes perfect sense to seek out knowledgeable, professional advisors who can teach him those skill sets. A well-adjusted man takes control of his mental health and seeks out healthy ways to deal with his emotions. Counseling equips men with new skills, strategies, and techniques to be the best men they can be. What’s more manly than being the best possible version of yourself?
“First responders are tough and if they seek counseling they must not be cut out for the job.” Particularly for first responders, having a counselor to talk to about things they’ve seen, experienced, and been involved in on the job can be vital. Packing up emotions in a little box can only last so long. Eventually that box gets full and everything spills, manifesting in anger, drinking, self-medicating, etc. Instead of hiding emotions, counseling can help first responders deal with their emotions in a healthy way, and become even better at their jobs by helping them prevent PTSD, Burnout, and Compassion Fatigue.
“Only crazy people go to counseling.” Being diagnosed with some sort of mental health issue does not make you crazy. Counseling can also help people who are not currently experiencing “problems” and desire to enrich their lives by working on healthy skills like communication and coping strategies for times when they may feel stressed or anxious.
The negative stigma surrounding mental health probably started with the early days of bizarre and torturous treatments to “fix” people with mental health issues. Thankfully, those days are long gone. Counseling can be hard work for the client. They will often be challenged by their counselor to grow and learn more healthy and positive ways to live.
My hope is, that together, we can break the stigma surrounding mental health. As a result, more people will feel comfortable suggesting counseling to friends and family, sharing that it is a good thing to go to counseling, and that more people will reach out and attend counseling for the betterment of their own mental health.
Written by Anne Wiggs, M.A., LPC-Intern (Supervised by Jennie Fincher, Ph.D., LPC-S)
Edited by Bailey & Mark Korzenewski