"Standing up to the stigma of counselling" by Rebecca Halton
Many people are reluctant to seek counselling because of the stigma attached to it. They believe that you have to be seriously mental in order to get help. This 2-part article will dispel all the myths. This week, we will look at the Stigma, next week we will look at how among believers, counsel can be a conduit of divine wisdom, and strength.
By Rebecca Halton
When it comes to counseling, it’s usually not that we doubt what it can do for us – it’s that we fear what it might say about us. With the exception of pre-marital counseling (the kind of counseling I loved announcing to people), I was concerned what people might think, if I admitted to getting professional help for anything else:
What’s wrong with her?
She must not pray well or hard enough.
She must have serious issues, if she needs counseling.
Behind the stigma of counseling, we generally find one of two things: shame or self-righteous judgment. Shame that we need counseling; or self-righteous judgment that someone else would need counseling (and we don’t). And what we know about both of these is that neither is of God.
The first time I can remember seeking out professional counseling was my senior year of college. Most recently, I consulted with my current counselor a couple weeks before Christmas, as I processed a difficult personal decision. To me, counseling can be a great option for a few reasons:
1. I don’t want to exhaust my friendships. Even the best friendship has its limits. I’m not suggesting counseling replace friendship. But I am recommending we be considerate of the expectations we place on friends to listen, encourage and help us problem-solve.
2. I want the advantages of talking to a professional. If you had a legal problem, you’d want a lawyer advising you, right? Why? Because, in theory, someone who’s earned a law degree has cultivated certain skills and knowledge, and been tested and found capable.
3. I see how counseling safeguards against gossip. As an industry standard, counselors keep things confidential. And they’re typically able to be more objective, or at least balanced. A good counselor can detect gossipy analysis, and help you more constructively process.
But despite these reasons, are we “lesser Christians” if the Holy Spirit isn’t enough? After all, Jesus clearly explained in John 14:16 that one of the Holy Spirit’s roles is Counselor. So is it wrong for us to seek counsel from a fellow human being? No, not inherently, though counseling can become a sin when we elevate the human counselor above God and His Word (idolatry).
Next week we will look at how among believers, counsel can be a conduit of divine wisdom, and strength.
Until then, stay blessed