From Fairy Godmother To Medicine Man: What Is a Counselor?

    Going to a counselor can be helpful, but it can also be disappointing for some. Years of sitting across from struggling and hurting clients have taught me so much about the counseling process. I think that some of the greatest disappointments in the counseling process are rooted in misconceptions and assumptions of what counseling is all about. I will attempt to address what I see as stumbling blocks to a great counseling experience.

What Gives Counseling a Bad Rap

  • The counselor fails to emphasize that sometimes things get harder before they get better in counseling.

  • The counselor does not communicate his/her specific role in the therapeutic relationship.

  • Your counselor is not your friend.

  • A counselor is not an emergency first responder. (Your counselor cannot be reached 24/7. If you or someone else is in imminent danger, call 9-1-1.)

  • Not having a goal to work on, or at least not actively seeking to find a goal to work on.

  • Not asking questions or not questioning a therapist when you do not like or understand the direction of therapy.

  • A counselor does not do the work for the client. (I like to tell clients that the greatest work of therapy is what the client does in-between sessions.)

  • Not accepting personal responsibility for your choices. (A counselor does not perform some magical act of making your problems disappear.)

  • Not taking an active role in making change happen, otherwise known as a victim mentality.

  • A counselor does not have a prescription pad, hence “Medicine Man”, as seen in the title above. If during your evaluation it appears you need medication(s), a counselor will advise seeking a doctor’s care, in tandem with counseling.

What Does a Counselor Do?

     Simply, a counselor comes alongside a client to help create a safe space or neutral ground to find solutions and to process feelings.

   There is such a stigma surrounding mental health, and I believe that is part of the misunderstanding surrounding what a counselor does. People are far more likely to ask for medications from a medical doctor for mental health-related issues (upset stomach due to anxiety, headaches, etc.) than they are to talk to someone in the mental health field. In essence, many people look at counselors from a medical model, expecting short-term symptom relief as expected from a medication. With a better understanding of the counseling process, a client is better equipped to get rid of faulty expectations and get to work on the issues at hand by working with a therapist.

Posted by Laura Ketchie | Counselor

Laura Ketchie, LPC is a counselor who specializes in women's issues. Her favorite verse is: "...whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me — put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." Philippians 4:8-9

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