"Who goes to counselling"?
I am often asked, "who goes to counselling"? I usually start off by saying "all kinds of people". This response is usually met with disbelief. The conversation usually goes like this:
"Well surely there must be something wrong with them."
"Don't they have any friends or family to talk to."
"They must have something terribly wrong with them..."
"They have too much money or just like hearing the sound of their own voice"
"Maybe they are just plain mad!"
Usually when I am met with such a response, I wait patiently for the person to finish. The list of what is wrong with someone who would seek out counselling of their own volition is much longer, but you get the point.
Sometimes I even get an example of someone they know who went for counselling, and then left their job, fell out with their family members and thoroughly made a mess of their lives...according to the person telling the story.
To settle things down I give an example of an imaginary person called Dave.
Dave is good at his job, he has just finished a really good project and his boss is impressed. 'Dave', the boss says 'it would be really great if you could present your project at the next meeting of senior managers at the end of the month, I want everyone to know what good work you have done'.
Dave smiles stiffly and agrees. The rest of the day Dave is on edge and goes home early looking a bit drained. Dave finds it difficult to sleep that night, he is terrified of public speaking. Everyone will be looking at him, what if he makes a mistake or just can't speak. Everyone will be judging him and thinking what a prat!
As the days go by, Dave worries more and more, he can't start the presentation, he isn't sleeping well and two weeks before the presentation Dave has a panic attack outside the tube station on his way to work so he returns home and calls in sick.
At this stage my listener is saying "poor Dave, I can just imagine how he feels".
I continue with my story as at this stage my listener wants to know more about Dave and his problem.
Dave's wife suggests that he goes to the doctor as he is sleeping poorly, having difficulty catching his breath and has a tight feeling in his chest.
Dave goes along to the doctors, and after the consultation the doctor does not prescribe sleeping pills or an appointment for a chest X-ray. The GP suggests that a few sessions of counselling may be beneficial. Not wanting to argue with the GP, Dave agrees and dutifully goes off to counselling.
Counselling helps Dave to understand that his physical symptoms are linked to his fear of giving the presentation. Dave talks through his fears that started in childhood, and by the end of the session Dave starts to feel that maybe he could give the presentation after all.
Over the next few days, Dave tells his wife and a few close colleagues of his fears about the presentation and with their encouragement and help he puts together the presentation.
Dave felt sweaty, a little nauseous before he started giving the presentation, but he knew it was just his anxiety. He was shocked to find that his audience loved it, they listened to every word. One of the senior managers even commented on how confident he looked.
My listener, then says, "counselling helped Dave to talk about what was bothering him, giving him the confidence to seek support and help from others and was able to cope with his anxiety...."
At this point I usually let it sink in for a bit, and then the person says "actually now that you mention it, I was thinking that I could get some counselling for......."
So the question that was really being asked is:
"Can someone like me go to counselling?"