While many people know that mental health is important, why do so few seek treatment? A few reasons may include the stigma of seeking mental health treatment, cost of treatment, commitment to treatment, fear of revealing our inner truth to a stranger, doubting the level of professional service received from the therapist, holding onto the belief that counselling or therapy does not work, etc. Let’s look at each one briefly:
Seeking mental health treatment is slowly becoming more acceptable across all cultural groups yet there is still that nagging feeling of having to admit to oneself and others that “I need help”. The fear is that if we admit we need relationship counselling, seek therapy to control impulsive behaviours, or face addiction, or need help to create meaning in our lives, we will have to admit there is something wrong with us. In the short term it seems easier to bury our heads in the sand, hoping the problem will go away. But admitting you have a challenge that you wish to work through or, shift or even resolve, seeking help is the first step to an empowering life with long term benefits.
Cost and time
Adding a line item to your budget called therapy can seem like a luxury and can easily become one of the items to cross off the list when making decisions regarding distribution of your funds. But consider the longer-term cost to yourself, your partner, family and/or friends if you don’t invest in your mental and emotional well-being. Remember that you are system and belong to an eco-system; this means every part of ourselves impacts the other parts. People often ask me “How long do you think we will need to work on this?” My answer is always “You can continue to come as long as you find the sessions valuable.” Therapy is never only about the issue that the client presents with, therefore the duration cannot be predicted as every individual and/relationship is unique.
Change, improvement and evolution of the self requires commitment and hard work. Sometimes individuals and couples start counselling, believing that the act of arriving for therapy will solve their problems. This is not the case. The sessions provide a platform and a means to help put the tools and mechanisms in place and does provide a safe-space for the couple to explore and bring out the vulnerabilities and hurt that may seem too difficult to do so on their own. The real work and change happens between sessions. Do you find that you want to bail when the therapist raises their observations or challenges? That is the time to dig deep and push through.
It does take courage to go to a stranger and start telling them about the shame, guilt, sadness and disappointment that you have been carrying around for most of your life, or to admit that you have had an affair. But, there is also something very safe about that. The counsellor or therapist is trained to hold a safe space for you, has positive regard for you as an individual or couple, is objective, and non-judgmental. The therapist tries to be objective and neutral, and while they may offer their perspective or thought, they are there to help you make sense of your world, or of each other, and to create new or different paths.
Questioning the professional service of the therapist
One hears some scary stories about therapists, and one sees abominable behaviour displayed in movies, which scares people away from seeking help. Your need to know you are receiving a professional service, and receiving value, is normal. You can assess value by asking: how do you feel when you leave therapy, and what reflections do you have in between sessions? Are these moving you closer to some place of truth, realisation, calm, peace, better connection with your partner, being more compassionate towards yourself and others, etc.
What do you feel about the counsellor/therapist?
While we are trained to establish rapport with our clients, I believe it is a two-way street, and sometimes the personality mix of the client and therapist is like water and oil. This does not mean that counselling or therapy does not work; you have just not found the right person to work with yet. Do not give up. Try someone else, as the right click is vitally important. If of course you are on your third therapist and still feel you want to move, then you may need to look at what is happening with you.
Implement the change
Having faced all the above on my own journey, and from my experience as a counsellor, I know that the journey to healing, implementing change and moving forward can be daunting, and requires work. I urge you to consider the benefits of going through counselling/therapy or psychotherapy and give yourself the opportunity to start moving towards the life you want.
I am offering a complimentary discovery session over the next three weeks (for bookings between now and the end of February) for you to see if 2019 is going to be the year you can make a difference in your life. DM me or go to www.capetowncounselling or go to Facebook: @capetowncounselling.