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"I Don't Want To Go To Counseling"

Updated on March 1, 2011

Friend and helper

Have you ever been at a loss for words when talking to a friend about a life issue they are battling with? At one time, we are all put in the position as "counselor" and helper to someone. We know that listening is crucial and giving reassurance is helpful, but what else can, or should, we do? Maybe the person needs professional help; a counselor.

I can't count how many times I've heard the phrase, "I don't want to go to counseling", especially in the last 3 months. Believe it or not, it has something to do with the fact I've often been told I can sell ice to an Eskimo. Although I never thought of myself as a salesperson until a few months ago. Let me explain...

My husband works at The Veteran's Hospital in the city. He is a vet himself- ex-Marine, injured serious enough to be discharged from the military. I met him years after all of this, but I came into his life just in time to witness the after effects of his arthritis at age 38, 5 knee surgeries, and a reocurring issue with depression and sleep disturbances. He never realized how his "traumas" had effected every area of his life until I pointed this out; in a gentle, loving, wifely way of course- OK, most of the time.

About a year after he began working for the Veterans Hospital, he made friends with several people and word got around that I have a Psychology degree. No big deal really- A Psychology Degree is minimal compared to what most counselors have. How could I possibly help anyone when I have yet to get my own life in order? I have this view of being perfect in order to help others and since I've never reached that unattainable goal, I've never pursued the counseling gig all the way. Unless you count the numerous times I listened to the woes of others while bartending.

My nonprofessional counseling job

My unofficial nonprofessional counseling job came about casually and unexpected. It all started when an intern at my husband's job was having family and boyfriend issues so he suggested she talk to me. I talked to her for a few hours one day and ongoing every once in a while for a few months. Next, a young guy heard through her about me and said he wanted to talk to me. Suddenly his friend and that friend's girlfriend wanted to talk to me together. This growing list of people I was talking to had one thing in common; they didn't want to see a counselor.

When I asked why they didn't want to see a counselor, the answer was "because I don't need help" or "I can deal with this myself". I didn't bother pointing out the obvious that they were talking to a stranger (me) about private issues. But something turns people off from seeking counseling. I know the feeling, I've been there too. Suddenly it occurred to me, as a non-counselor I may be able to help people more.

Saleswoman of the year!

In the last 3 months I've "counseled" 2 individuals and 1 couple, believe it or not, on some lawn chairs in my yard and/or garage. I guess subconsciously I was trying to convey the opposite of a typical stuffy counseling office. Either that, or I had no idea what I was doing and was merely trying to make myself comfortable.

All they wanted was someone to talk to. Although, while I'm listening to their stories, I'm thinking they really need to seek counseling, but they all had an aversion to therapy. I had to change their mind sensitively.

Some of the stories I heard concerned indecision about an abortion, experiences in Iraq while deployed (war), recovering from severe car accident, divorce, and many more traumatic revelations. All of them were either in the military or recently discharged. In other words, I was out of my league, never being in the military and knowing these issues were serious. But somehow I persevered triumphantly and found all my life experiences and schooling working hard for me as I sold ice to Eskimos.

First, I addressed the counseling stigma, especially with the guys. I told them I knew exactly how they felt about counseling. When my parents divorced, my mom wanted me to go to counseling, but I had absolutely no interest. I avoided counseling until I went to school for my Psychology Degree. I started having a different opinion about counseling and having more knowledge about how to pick the right one for me. I also realized admitting my weaknesses made me stronger. Facing my problems, instead of hiding proved courage. Working through issues sooner than later made for a richer life ahead.

This is the way I explained counseling, in other words, my sales pitch;

"You fill your car with gas because it will run more efficiently and it certainly beats pushing it by yourself. You take an aspirin because you know eventually you'll get over that headache, but the aspirin will speed up the process. You have problems. You may eventually work through them by yourself, possibly by the time you are 50+ years old (they were all in their 20's). If you decide to go this route then you will have lost a good amount of your life approaching and enjoying people and experiences differently than if you didn't have a residual effect from the issues plaguing you now. People who go to counseling want to get more out of life. It's a fast-paced world and honestly, who wants to spend a lifetime overcoming issues from our early years when we can face them immediately with help."

Putting this into military terms they would relate to:

"A good counselor helps you help yourself. Your independence isn't taken away. You are made stronger, not weaker. Any man/woman knows, it is better to have a trained army then go into battle by yourself untrained." I probably mentioned things about courage and other analogies. I got them to laugh, talk freely, and feel understood. Two of them now see a counselor at the Veteran's Hospital.

The stigma of counseling

The humorous side of me enjoys this quote;"Psychotherapy is a discussion between two people one of whom is slightly less anxious than the other." Irving Yalom.

After talking to these people, whom I had never met before, it helped me understand how counseling works, at least in theory. We often get reaffirmed by our friends and family about how we are dealing with an issue. They are biased and can't possibly look onto us separated from the situation- they are personally invested and involved. The counselor is an objective coach and mediator; someone who knows us better than ourselves because of that position. If you trust a doctor to help your body, then why wouldn't you trust a counselor to help your mind?

An interesting website states, "You don’t have to be crazy, maladjusted, weird or uncool to go to counseling." But why do so many people avoid therapy? One thought is it's our last place of freedom. Literally everything can be stripped away from us except our thoughts. It may feel like an invasion of privacy. It may be the stranger aspect as I mentioned above. Also, how many times do we hear jokes concerning psychologists? or negative media?

Would you rather see a Life Coach? Many would. Their popularity is overwhelming in recent years because the term sounds significantly better than psychotherapist, right? Whoever coined the term was a genius. Of course I'd rather see a Life Coach! That sounds cool. But essentially counselors/therapists have more training and likely to be covered by your health insurance.

On Becoming a Counselor

I read a great book, before I went to school for my Psychology Degree. It is titled "On Becoming a Counselor; A Basic Guide for Nonprofessional Counselors". Whether we like it or not, We will find ourselves in this situation and this book offers helpful tips in laymens terms. In fact, it summarizes what can be found in textbooks, but is essentially hard-bought wisdom.

What to do:

  • Don't try to do good- A lot of harm has been done by the world's greatest do-gooders or those who set out to save the world. This is actually a selfish ambition because you are the one who will ultimately get a reward for the feeling of helping someone whether or not you've actually helped. Do-gooders are defined by people who act on others in response to their own needs. We can avoid this by trying to see and encourage our own pre-planned outcome for someone else.
  • Listen to the person- Most people want to be heard and understood and completely honest. Helpers will hear better if they listen for more than their own expectations of the problem.
  • Forget about problems- Closely related to not listening is the problem with problems. Problems cloud the person. Problems do not exist without the person, therefore the person should be the focus. The role of a helper is not to solve problems- Yes, it's true! We can, however, help others to accept their responsibility for themselves. People can have the same problem but have completely different reactions.
  • Read your feelings- "I feel angry", "I feel helpless", "I feel frightened". These are feelings you will run into if you help others, but these feelings are a great indication of what the other person feels. If we read our own reaction, we can understand the other person.

Helping others is simple if you remember humanity is too ordinary to be considered impressive, yet extremely effective in this context. That is the ease and distinction of a good helper.

Therapy for your inner child


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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I hate therapy and will never go back. nothing any of you said would ever change my heart. If I do go back, I won't tell anyone because they are people that just want to hurt me because I have problems. I will never face shame again by telling someone that I went to "therapy"

    • Yoridale profile image


      9 years ago

      Nice writing. Keep it up!

    • izettl profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from The Great Northwest

      BikTMIA~ Thank you so much.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Great post

    • ItsThatSimple profile image


      10 years ago from Florida

      Objective advice by a professional is a great advantage. I think people are afraid of counseling because modern counseling appears to be a 20th century phenomenon that a lot of people just aren't familiar enough with. I think as understanding of how counseling works increases it will continue to become mainstream.

    • izettl profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from The Great Northwest

      I see a counsleor from time to time- it' like going to the gym. If I don't stay on top of things, they get sloppy so I need a tune-up sometimes in all areas. The guy I see is awesome- he is the only one I've been to that has advice I can put to use and little "assignments". It's hard finding the right fit in a counselor because it's often the bad ones he hear stories or jokes about. But the idea of it is good in general. It's nice to see you Tom, by the way!

    • tom hellert profile image

      tom hellert 

      10 years ago from home


      that hurts only because it may just be true...It seems when i go to my shrink- -and that is ytue- he always trues to get me to "figure it out for myself " He has only indicated what I HAD TO DO once- he has given me suggestions otherwise and kind advice- betterment advice so my rgeory on therapy and shrinks is they only step in hen they see obvious issues...


    • izettl profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from The Great Northwest

      elefanza~ the lack of emotion unnerves still too, but I've learned whenever helping people and listening to them that I just try to stay in the moment and I'm focused so maybe that's what counselors are trying to do. I'm not good at lacking emotion though, but you have to try sometimes so it is viewed as having strength for the other person. I know counselors are required to go to counselors because it would be hard to deal with everyone's issues all day. So they have there issues too.

    • Elefanza profile image


      10 years ago from Somewhere in My Brain

      More good points. In considering the one perspective -- the patient, I completely missed the other. And you're right -- I think the lack of emotion is what unnerves me the most. I always wonder what they're thinking.

    • izettl profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from The Great Northwest

      IF I don't know an answer to a question in class I would ask the professor, if I need help with a car problem I take it to a mechanic, proving it's not to be ashamed to ask for help from a professional. We often get stuck in our minds and think the counselor is going to judge us, but the counselor has their own thoughts, worries about hoping to help you, wondering how to help you, they get nervous too- we're all human and I think it helps to remember that whatver our mind is focusing on is not what another person is thinking about. We've all been thrugh a lot and you can bet a counselor is a counselor because they've been through something or witnessed something possibly bigger than your own problems. I know some people find therapy groups helpful so they don't feel like they're alone or judged. I think the unnerving factor about counselors is they usually don't show emotion even if you cry, they remain neutral to everything you say so it's hard to tell if they are judging or what they think.

    • Elefanza profile image


      10 years ago from Somewhere in My Brain

      Your perspective on counseling helps. I never would have thought to connect it to other traumatic experiences forcing people to depend on strangers. I think the core issue that I'm stuck on is the struggle of dealing with that initial sense of shame and failure. Knowing that they might be irrational doesn't always remove their presence. Yet adopting a different perspective that doesn't allow for that kind of shame is a way to pull through. And relying on someone to help you form that new perspective makes sense.

    • izettl profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from The Great Northwest

      elefanza~ I get your point about counseling and diversity. You have a lot of great points.

      Whenever i went to counseling I viewed it as getting honest and non-bias advice from a professional. Our friends and family have bias views and will mostly say what we want to hear. THis enables us. A view from outside of the box, like a counselor, is a good way for someone to see into your world without all the baggage and history you and those close to you have.

      I've never discovered I needed counseling for very long at a time, just enough to make me see things differently and start to observe my problems differently too. As much as I think and ponder and always have something going on in my brain 24/7, I've had a counselor almost always make me realize; "why didn't I think of that"? People get stuck in a rut and lost the ability to to view the situation other than what it means to them.

      Also, you can look at it this way. I've had to divulge some pretty personal things to doctors, concerning my health or exams, and many of them I'd never met. Someone who has cancer is going through a very personal traumatic event and rely on strangers/doctors all the way through the process.

      The really stand-out points you make are the racial/diverse groups not being represented by enough diverse counselors- this is true! I think seeing powerful stories on TV is great. It makes you think a little more and can help some people.

      Another point is going to counseling is telling yourself you are doing something about your issue(s) and you are now accountable to someone else. I've had good and bad counselors, but mostly good experiences.

      Thanks for the great discussion.

    • Elefanza profile image


      10 years ago from Somewhere in My Brain

      Interesting hub. Your point about seeking counseling as a way to get out of a funk made so much sense that I almost wanted to roadrunner dash over to a counselor. BTW, some guy in history actually DID make his fortune selling ice.

      Yet, I still find some definite qualms about this idea. First, being a certain kind of personality or way, the very process of going and talking to someone can be incredibly nerve-wracking. Not the least problem, to be sure, but a major deterrent. Another problem is the shame that might emerge on talking about the problems because having these problems might reflect negatively on you. Society's pressure to have it all together, certainly, but letting a stranger see you not having it all together makes you more susceptible to being judged, if not by the counselor, then by yourself. Then of course, if the problem has been recurring for a LONG time, there is the shame of still not having figured it out. Another concern, possibly unfounded, is once the problem begins to be talked about, how soon will the counselor expect you to achieve the satisfactory resolution? Will you then have to deal with the pressure of yet another person being disappointed in you if you can't achieve that resolution?

      The other concern I have with seeking counseling comes from listening to a person of a minority group say that there weren't that many minority counselors and they didn't feel comfortable talking to someone of the dominant group. At the time, this didn't make much sense to me, but now I feel as though I have a much better understanding. With America so racially divided, I can't help but see how people of different groups have experiences society differently. Going to someone without that intrinsic understanding of how society seems to be can be a wearying task because that person would then have to explain to the counselor not in the know why some of his/her responses are the way they are. With someone of the same identity, a kind of mutual understanding would be established and there would be a decreased risk of feeling judged. So while I'm normally skeptical of political manuevers that try to make society more PC, on this point I can see why it would be important to find someone of similar identity. As a woman, I would prefer a woman counselor.

      Now obviously, there are probably counterpoints and exceptions to each of these instances, but those are just some of the problems I've thought of. I've had some good experiences with going to counseling sessions and seeing Jillian Micheals makes me think that there is something to therapy. She certainly has the power to connect to so many different kinds of people. Yet I can definitely still see so many reasons why to stay back too, despite success stories (and having listened to many testimonials of many different things, I'm a bit suspicious). Also, I think really powerful stories can help people work through stuff too. But that's another tangent.

      Finally, (and my apologies for this insanely long comment) have you ever seen the show Dr. Catz? I have this feeling you would ADORE that show as it is cartoon show dealing with a therapist counseling various people and his relationship with his son. The show is HILARIOUS and with your background, I think you would get such a laugh out of it. I think it's on adult swim, possibly free somewhere on the Net. So funny.

    • izettl profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from The Great Northwest

      tom hellert~ We might be here all day if you pull up a chair to talk about issues- haha! You don't need help, you need an exorcist, a miracle, and a lobotomist. lol.

      Thanks for the entertainment.

    • izettl profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from The Great Northwest

      roadrunner~ Yes, we've all been an unofficial counselor I'm sure. I think that's why it's so important to know how to deal with others' problems. In my situation, these issues were way out of my league so I knew I had to just listen and suggest/sell counseling.

      MPGNarratives~ you bring up a good point about fees, but in this case, counseling was free because the people I talked to were in the military. So I guess I was trying to show them they should use all of their resources, like free counseling.

    • MPG Narratives profile image

      Maria Giunta 

      10 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      I once heard someone say they didn't want to go to a counselor because they didn't want their personality to change. Just one of the many misconceptions about counseling and you have made a very good case for counseling in this hub. Well done too at helping others out, lending your ear is certainly helpful at times.

      I too find fees charged by counselors and mental health specialists quite high and unfortunately the people who need them most can't afford them.

      Thanks for a thought provoking hub.

    • tom hellert profile image

      tom hellert 

      10 years ago from home

      ok dr I-8pulls up lawn chair* *moves it again to get under the shade of the umbrella* chair falls over again after he fixes it a third time ... tom takes the chair and throws it across the yard... Sits down in shade and starts - "ok Dr IZZY, where should I begin...


    • roadrunner0924 profile image


      10 years ago from Denver, Colorado

      Very well written, some good information that could benefit a lot of people at various ages....I am sure most, if not all of us, at one time or another was an unofficial counselor whether we realized it or not.

    • izettl profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from The Great Northwest

      Silentreed~ I see your point. I think it helps for people to know what is expected of a counselor and know that some of the "insensitivity" is their job. I like counseling because I truly feel it's a non-bias opinion and help with my problems. I know my friends will probably tell me what I want to hear and that's not helpful. THanks for the comment!! Nice to see you.

    • SilentReed profile image


      10 years ago from Philippines

      Therapists have to maintain a certain amount of distance and non-attachment to their patients which loses the warm and sense of belonging an emotionally troubled person really need. Would you rather be in a clinical office or sitting besides a comfortable fireside with a sympathetic listener?

    • izettl profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from The Great Northwest

      Cheaptrick- ah yes, I forgot- always a Marine. I know you guys well! Thanks for reading. I always took advantage of free counseling when in college, etc. so I thought military people would too, but it's not so. I agree it takes a strong person to face prblems and get help if necessary.

    • cheaptrick profile image


      10 years ago from the bridge of sighs

      Excellent hub Izetti,full of thought provoking insights.Seems to me the people who do go to counselling are the strong ones,able to recognise they have a problem rather than living in denial.Thanks

      BTW:there is no such thing as an EX-Marine:)


    • izettl profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from The Great Northwest

      Ms Dee~ thank you for a lovely comment!

      and you too Char M.

    • izettl profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from The Great Northwest

      Tatjana~ thanks for visiting and reading this. Your advice is great as well. Absorbing the negative energy from others is so true. I go to counseling periodically just to keep myself on track with life and work through things before they become buried and burdensome.

      THe people I "counseled" had access to free counseling because they were military so that's why I didn't understand why they didn't take advantage of that. So thought to write this hub based on what people have against counseling even when they can go for free. Alot of military people don't take advantage of this service.

    • Tatjana-Mihaela profile image


      10 years ago from Zadar, CROATIA

      Excellent advices.

      Just to add something from my own (and others) experience:

      - many people do not want to see the counselor and instead of that choose first person who is compassionate and warm enough to listen their problems just because such person will listen them for hours (most often) free of charge. Even better if the person who is willing to do "non-professional counselling" is trained to do that, as long as does not cost anything - is better then to pay to the psychoterapist or life-coach or....somebody who charges for that...per hour.

      Free helpers over the time start to have big health problems, because they absorb negative thoughts, emotions and other energies from people whom they listen. Sometimes listening the others can be more traumatic then our own life-traumas we had.

      If hope you charge for your counselling job.

      You do not need to be perfect in order to help others - nobody on this planet is , neither is that required. It takes many years to heal the wounds we all had in childhood - well, remembering these wounds help us to better understand other people, but our own problems do get solved over the years.

      I wish you a lot of success - you deserve it!

    • Char M profile image

      Char M 

      10 years ago from Pacific Coast

      Wonderful info here. You are right about us all being put into this position at some time. The book you referred to sounds interesting. Great advice.

    • Ms Dee profile image

      Deidre Shelden 

      10 years ago from Texas, USA

      I like the "don't try to do good" and your definition of what is meant by this :) This is a great reference for guidelines how to be truly compassionate and how to suggest a more realistic and helpful perspective on counseling. Thanks so much for sharing this wisdom.

    • izettl profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from The Great Northwest

      Thank you David Stone!

      breakfastpop~ i think some people are born with a gift, interpersonal intelligence, and something that makes complete strangers comfortable with them. I know exactly what you mean.

      Drbj~ somehow you make me think and laugh all at once. A pig...makes complete sense! lol.

      martie~ Yes, there needs to be better insurance coverage and/or fees for counseling. I have utilized pastors at churches, free counselors when I was going to college. Also, some counselors work on a payment arrangement based on your income.

      Things like grief and childhood scars stay with us in many ways, but we still have to know how to deal with them relating to the rest of our life. Counselors often have a different perspective than we do- like someone on the outside looking in. Even counselors have to see a counselor so that proves we need another perspective and often just getting the words out to someone else keeps us from repeating them in our heads over and over again. Thanks so much for your comment. I love your thoughtful comments on the tricky topics.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 

      10 years ago from South Africa

      Izet, this is really an issue to ponder over. I always had an ‘I-do-it-myself’-attitude’. So I’ll rather study whatever topic and then put it into practise. But of course I will never be able to remove my own infected appendix – and so will a qualified surgeon also not be able to remove his. I recently learned that I am also not able to resolve irresolvable matters in my soul – and even psychiatrist can’t manage to do this for themselves. It’s like a wound in your back where you can’t reach it. I really wish, though, that the fees charged by counsellors were not so high. Not all medical aids cover this important treatment sufficiently, if at all. Thanks for a very informative, mind-changing hub. You have a wonderful way of changing people’s perceptions.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      10 years ago from south Florida

      What a marvelous hub, izettl, well-written, informative and meaningful. You are so right about the term, Life Coach, as a positive substitute for therapist or counselor or even, perish forbid, shrink.

      Many folks with problems just need a compassionate ear, as you pointed out, someone to talk to, someone who is really listening. Much of the time they can find their own solutions.

      I have always believed that the perfect coach would be a pig! Yes, a pig! Ask me why.

      Rationale: a human coach might say, "Um-hmm" with a positive inflection. Or "Uh-uh" with a negative sound. But a pig will just grunt - neither positive nor negative - and therefore lead the person being counseled to provide their own solution. Would you agree?

    • breakfastpop profile image


      10 years ago

      Very compassionate and intelligent article. I have been an "unofficial counselor" most of my life. I could be sitting on a bench at a park and a perfect stranger would approach, sit down and tell me all their problems,. It's always been that way.

    • David Stone profile image

      David Stone 

      10 years ago from New York City

      Thoughtful and well-written.


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