Seven reasons why you should be open to counselling
Attending free counselling in school changed my life for the better.
When my friend read my article about what I wish I knew before polytechnic, she texted to ask why I went for counselling. I was worried she would judge me for seeing a counsellor, but her next text read: “I always wanted to go but I don’t dare to”.
I understood my friend’s reluctance; I had wanted to go for the free counselling offered by my polytechnic since my first year in 2018, but put it off as I thought it meant I was weak and helpless.
I only decided to register for a session in my second year, when my friends attended a few sessions and spoke positively about their experience.
Since that first session in June 2019, I’ve been for 12 counselling sessions, and my only regret is not starting sooner.
Here are seven reasons I believe that anyone considering counselling should register for it.
1. Counselling and therapy are different
I thought going for counselling meant that I would have to divulge every last detail about my life, which I was unwilling to do.
While therapy does go more in-depth and requires long-term commitment, counselling usually only involves communicating to solve short-term problems (think financial consultants or interior design consultants).
While I didn’t have any serious mental health issues, I still appreciated receiving a counsellor’s advice for my problems. I also knew that I was not very kind to myself, and that seeing a counsellor would help me treat myself with more compassion.
2. Counselling is confidential
One of my main concerns of going for counselling was privacy. I didn’t want my family, friends or lecturers to know that I was undergoing counselling – ironically because of the stigma behind talking about mental health.
Thankfully, my fears were quelled in my first counselling session.
The counsellor said that, in the event that she had to contact someone else regarding what I shared, she would discuss it with me and receive my approval before taking any action.
I can’t speak for other schools or organisations regarding their approach to counselling, so if privacy is also a concern to you, feel free to check during your very first counselling session.
3. Counselling doesn’t have to follow a rigid structure
For my first few sessions of counselling, I was uncomfortable sharing my problems with a stranger.
I often talked in a cryptic manner, literally saying: “Something happened that made me sad, then I did something else to feel a little better.”
My counsellor must have been frustrated with my lack of details. She frequently asked me to rate my feelings on a scale from one to 10, but I couldn’t seem to quantify my emotions.
I decided to be honest and tell her that rating my feelings was not working out for me.
I expected her to be at a loss for what to do next, but was surprised when she immediately said it was alright and asked what I would prefer instead. I told her I would make an effort to provide more details, and that I hoped she could prompt me and offer her opinion when needed.
Since then, I have been a lot more in touch with my feelings, and I am able to open up to her more.
4. Your problems do matter
Initially, I also did not talk much during counselling sessions because I thought my problems were too insignificant.
I was under the assumption that counselling was only for people who were facing serious issues, and was worried that she would judge me for arranging a counselling session just to talk about a silly little problem.
I came to the revelation that, if my problem was weighing on my mind, then surely it must be worth talking about. I didn’t have to go through a catastrophic, life-changing event to get “permission” to arrange a counselling session.
Counselling is not just for people who have been affected by something serious. It’s for everyone, even if they are able to function well.
5. You get an unbiased listening ear
My friend once disapproved of me going for counselling, claiming that she didn’t need to see a counsellor as she had already confided everything in her close friend.
I disagree with that notion. Friends may be great listening ears, but they aren’t professionally trained, and your problems could be a burden to them.
Furthermore, they know you and the people around you, and may thus be biased or have preconceived notions.
On the other hand, counsellors are equipped with the skills to listen to your problems and offer appropriate solutions. They are also able to act as an impartial, unbiased voice.
6. You get great advice
Throughout my year and a half of counselling, I went through bouts of sadness, stress, anger and grief. My counsellor would often give me useful tips to help tide me through those overwhelming feelings.
For example, there was once when I was seriously enraged by a situation that I could not change.
When I asked the counsellor how I could cope with this foreign feeling of fury, she advised me to think: “This situation makes me angry and it’s not what I want for myself, so I will control it for my own well-being.”
That way, I could still acknowledge and feel my anger, but I wouldn’t see it as destructive or a huge problem. By setting boundaries for myself, the anger would still be there, but I wouldn’t let it consume me.
Don’t get me wrong – the counsellor never solved my problems, because only I could fix those problems myself. But she did offer support and tailored advice as I journeyed through life.
7. Counselling can change you for the better
Among all the advice the counsellor has given me, the one I will always remember has to be: “Ease up on yourself a little.”
Whenever we spoke during my counselling sessions, I realised all my problems went back to one underlying thing: I was far too hard on myself.
By regularly talking to the counsellor, I was able to be more aware of when I was being tough on myself. When that happened, I would follow her advice and treat myself with more compassion, while reminding myself that my situation wouldn’t last forever.
After 12 sessions over the past year and a half, I can confidently say that I like myself a lot more now.
I’ll always be grateful to my counsellor for helping me on my journey towards self-compassion.
With that being said, I think it’s important to note that counselling is not a quick-fix solution to mental health.
From my experience, it takes multiple sessions over a period of time. It may also involve a willingness to open up, heed advice and make changes to your life.
Still, I do highly recommend attending a counselling session. I’ve personally had a wonderful experience with my school’s free counselling, and it has helped me develop into a more confident individual.
This article’s for my friend, my 17-year-old self, and anyone who is on the fence about going for counselling. If your counselling experience is anything like mine, I guarantee that you won’t regret it.