I would like to dispel some misconceptions about counselling and psychotherapy (words that will be used interchangeably here):
1) Going to psychotherapy doesn’t mean that you are psychotic or that you will be diagnosed as a psychopath. “Normal” people go for counselling and psychotherapy to feel supported and get help with their lives.
2) Going for counselling or psychotherapy doesn’t mean anything is wrong with you. Sometimes there are obstacles between how your life is now and how brilliantly sane you really are. Then we work to remove those obstacles. Whether or not there are obstacles it also helps, categorically, to have someone to see your brilliant sanity and reflect it back to you.
3) I am not, as a Registered Clinical Counsellor, going to prescribe medications. Although medications are helpful for some peoples’ mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing, you will need to speak to your doctor or psychiatrist if you are seeking pharmacological or medical support. If you feel it would be particularly supportive to see additional healthcare professionals (i.e., acupuncturists, herbalists, massage therapists, chiropractors, naturopaths, etc.), with your written consent I am happy to consult with them and work as part of a team on behalf of your wellbeing. In psychotherapy, the therapeutic relationship is the medicine.
4) Psychotherapy does not have to be about finding what’s wrong with you or your life. Psychopathology is what we, as psychotherapists, call “what’s awry” in peoples’ personalities and moods. Psyche means, “the vital principle or animating force within living beings, and pathology means, “a departure or deviation from a normal condition.” (Normal is more accurately described as “commonly accepted” here). Sometimes there are things awry and we can work to improve those conditions. That doesn’t change the fact that you are fundamentally and brilliantly sane, and that that sanity can justifiably be the focus of psychotherapy.
5) Psychotherapy is most accurately translated as “healing of the mind, spirit, and animating principle.”
Everyone needs support sometimes. It can help to talk to someone who is going to listen and be there just for you. A counselling or psychotherapy session is just that – a time just for you.
It can be equally helpful for you to have a therapist who can be a reliable source of comfort not because then you will have to depend on them, but because then you can depend on them. When you have a counsellor, you can count on having a stable, warm and kind force in your life. You don’t need to do it alone.
What you find has been wounded in relationship can be, and some would say needs to be, healed through relationship. A psychotherapeutic relationship is a healing relationship.
You can use the counselling session to explore your thoughts, feelings, sensations and emotions. This is a time when you can feel your way through your whole life, whether your experiences seem to be positive, negative or neutral. You may just begin to feel as though you are living more fully!
Marlise Meilan, M.A., R.C.C., Contemplative Psychotherapist (Buddhist Mental Health Therapist).