Common myths about counselling

A client once told me that her friend thought she came to counselling to do breathing exercises to keep calm!  This is one amongst many misconceptions that I have come across in counselling.  It is not surprising when there are so many types of counselling (talking therapies) available.  At the point when you decide to go to counselling, you may well be feeling overwhelmed and bewildered. Being clear about what counselling involves may help.


One way to lessen the anxiety around counselling is to have a better understanding of what you will be getting into - and what is simply a myth.  Here are some of the most common myths:


1.       Therapy is for people who have serious addictions or mental health disorders.

In reality, all sorts of people come to therapy with a vast range of problems.  Counselling is helpful for those with addictions and serious mental health issues, but is also beneficial for people who are having relationship difficulties; problems interacting with others whether in a social or work environment;  bereavement;  parenting issues; physical or emotional health issues – to name but a few…


2.       Therapy is only for celebrities and it costs a fortune!

You may hear about famous people having therapy in clinics such as The Priory, but there is a range of options available in terms of type of setting and also cost.  There are some free services run by charities, and as well as private practitioners and clinics which may offer low-cost options.


3.       Going to counselling is self-indulgent, or a sign of weakness

I see therapy as part of self-care.  There are certain times in life when it is helpful to seek help from a professional – whether that be a doctor for a physical ailment, or a therapist for an emotional issue.  It can be helpful to have someone to talk to in confidence who is not involved in other aspects of your life: counselling is different from talking to friends or family.  There is often stigma attached to mental health issues, and it can be difficult to seek help. But I see it as a courageous step to find help, and not a sign of weakness.


4.       I will have to lie on a couch and the therapist will just nod in response to me

This myth comes from the roots of modern counselling which began with psychoanalysis and Freud.  Psychoanalysis still exists as a kind of therapy and may be done with the client on a couch - but the majority of modern counselling is done with both client and counsellor seated in chairs.  My therapy is conducted by sitting in a chair across from my client in a warm, private and comfortable environment.  Although the most important thing for me to do is to listen to my client, this is done through having a normal, flowing conversation.


5.       Counselling will fix my problems

Counselling is not advice-giving, and it aims to facilitate change that will be initiated by the client.  My style of counselling consists of me working in partnership with my client to explore the issues, and try to help the client come to their own conclusions and resolutions. This will hopefully result in changes - whether that means feeling more confident and fulfilled, or more able to come to terms with a difficult situation. These are just a few examples of how counselling may help.


Above are just some of the myths surrounding counselling and therapy and may help you to understand what counselling is really about.

Here are some useful links:

Sophia Armstrong