“I Don’t Go to Counseling!”
I remember one time talking to a male friend of mine about counseling and he informed me that “I think going to counseling and talking about your feelings is weird and not something men should do”. I found this to be such an interesting statement because almost every day this same friend would tell me how stuck he felt in his job and how emasculated he felt knowing his wife made more money at her dream job. But yet, to him, the thought of going to counseling and talking to someone about these feelings was not something he was willing to do. I would guess that a lot of us have known someone that said “I don’t go to counseling” or we have been that person ourselves. But what is it that keeps you or someone you love from going to counseling? Today over 43 million people suffer from a mental illness in any given year, but yet 60% of those people do not get any help. (1) With so many people suffering, what is holding so many people back from counseling?
Reasons for Not Going to Counseling
Let’s look quickly back at my friend I talked about earlier. From what I can see I think he had three major reasons for not going to therapy. First, he had a misunderstanding of what therapy is and how it works. Second, he didn’t want to be seen as weak. Third, he believed that what was ‘wrong with him’ was something he should just be able to get through on his own. Let’s spend some time looking at each of these.
- Misunderstand: One of the biggest barriers from a person going to counseling is that they have a misunderstanding of what therapy is and how it works. I have talked to many people who think going to therapy is only for people who are struggling with extreme cases of mental illness. Which means that if ‘I am not suicidal, homicidal, hearing voices or seeing visions…then therapy is not for me because it is for people who are struggling in that way.’ The real truth is there is no bad time to come to therapy. In fact, most therapists see their own counselor. I think the next big misunderstanding I hear is that counseling is just going to be talking about my feelings and the way my parents messed me up. However, counseling and therapy is guided by you. When you enter into counseling you get to choose the topics to talk about and if you don’t want to talk about feelings or your parents that is totally your call.
- Going to Counseling is a Sign of Weakness: Today we are often told that we should be able to be strong enough to handle whatever life throws at us without asking for help or seeing a therapist. I have always thought this is a very strange idea in our culture. If you were suffering from tooth pain, for example, and told your friend about it, their response would (hopefully) not be “I think you’ll be fine, just get over it.” Your friend would probably respond by saying, “that sounds really painful. You should go see the dentist.” But yet when we talk about mental health, we expect people to just “get over it”. It’s estimated that around 25% of adults suffer from anxiety or depression every year. (1) With a quarter of the population struggling many strong people are avoiding getting the help they need because they believe they can tough through it rather than seeking out the help they need.
- I Should Be Able to Get Over it Myself: Asking for help is a major struggle for so many people today. We live in a culture of self-reliance and independence where asking for help shows us that we were not able to ‘pick ourselves up by our bootstraps’ and do things on our own. This, I believe, is what most held my friend back from going to counseling. My friend believed that if he didn’t do things on his own, he was not independent or self-reliant.
Breaking Down the Stigma
Mental health today is stigmatized with these beliefs which prevents so many from seeking out the help they truly need to live healthy lives. The only way we can see people get help is to break down these stigmas and start with ourselves by seeking out the help we need and start the road to recovery today.
In part two we will explore ways to get your loved one into therapy when they say “I don’t go to counseling.”