8 Most Common Myths About Counseling

By Casey Wheeler

(Spoken in a low, gentle voice) “I think you should consider counseling.” It sounds ominous, doesn’t it? College is a profound, life-changing experience that will hit you with plenty of intellectual as well as emotional challenges. At some point, you may feel overwhelmed, in need of help, and consider counseling. But many believe that seeking counseling while still in school is detrimental to an academic career or is just a waste of time. Before you write off its benefits, take a look at these common myths about counseling that may prevent you from getting the help you need and deserve.

  1. Counseling is for people who are mentally ill:

    Life has a board for every butt, and being willing to seek out help when you feel like you’ve taken one too many beatings is a sign of maturity and strength. After arriving at college, you may find the transition to your new surroundings overwhelming, experience long-distance pressures from your family, or struggle with speaking up and communicating clearly in the classroom. Counseling can help you address these and other problems, which may not be indicators of mental illness, but are nonetheless detrimental to reaching your potential as a student.

  2. Seeking counseling is a sign of weakness:

    This myth applies particularly to men who traditionally have kept their feelings capped and internalized pain at the cost of their own emotional health. If you can forget for a second what your peers may think, you might consider that seeking counseling actually takes a fair amount of courage, since you’re attempting to address a problem that another less brave person might be too scared to confront.

  3. My professors, friends, and school administration will know I went for counseling:

    Anything you discuss with a counselor is private and confidential. A counselor will not release information about you to your parents, professors, or school administration without your expressed permission. A counselor can explain to you the limits of that confidentiality during your first appointment. If you’re concerned about the open environment of a counselor’s office and waiting area, call and see if you can schedule a phone appointment instead.

  4. Counselors will tell me what to do:

    Counselors will listen to you and then ask questions designed to help you figure out what you can do to resolve a problem. They and the staff at your college’s Health Services department are there to direct you to resources that you may find helpful, but their role is not to give you advice or a set of orders to follow.

  5. The counselor won’t understand me due to differences in ethnicity and experience:

    Remember, a counselor’s background may be more diverse than you assume. Counselors are also trained to understand and be sensitive to the individual experiences of each student they meet when it comes to gender, sexual orientation, age, religious beliefs, economic background, and race and ethnicity. But if you still have concerns, bring them up to the counselor; there may be another person on staff who you will feel more comfortable talking to.

  6. Counseling doesn’t work:

    It may surprise you to know that most research indicates that counseling is effective. If you have had a negative experience in the past with counseling, or found that for whatever reason it wasn’t effective, bring this up with a new counselor. It’s definitely worth your time to try counseling a second time, especially since each counselor is different, and your own perspective on the process may have changed over time.

  7. I may become too dependent on the counselor:

    The point of counseling is to address whatever issues are making you feel as if you are not in control of your life in order to help you regain a sense of control and independence. Counselors do not harbor a hidden agenda to convince you that without therapy, you will be unable to function and make your own decisions. Keep in mind some problems may require a longer period of treatment, but many do not.

  8. Counseling changes who you are forever:

    Like Fred Rogers sang, you are special, and the goal of counseling isn’t to change all of the characteristics that make you special. The goal of counseling is to put you in charge of making changes necessary to address whatever it is that is keeping you from realizing your full potential, but not at the cost of your beliefs and values.