Hearts and Heads: Why Counseling?

I have been working in the field of mental health for a while. The question, “What might help?” is a big puzzle for both clients and clinicians. Or is it?

Let’s break it down.

I’m writing this piece to encourage you to consider counseling if you feel:

  • hopeless
  • worthless
  • worried
  • betrayed
  • scared
  • misunderstood
  • or find yourself in any negative state of mind for too long.

Counseling can also be helpful if you are a happy person who is trying to better understand yourself or your relationships. We don’t think twice about seeking regular maintenance for cars and trucks. Why not seek out a place to unload some of the stress that our brains and bodies take on? Life can be difficult. If you don’t think so, you might want to check your pulse.

So, what might help?

Talking. For some, this might seem like insanity. Talk to a complete stranger about my personal life? Of course it may seem awkward. Trying something new or different always increases our anxiety. It is the counselor’s job to help you get over this obstacle, and usually, it goes well. One of the things we have going for us as therapists, besides years of training, is that we are not your friends or family. We will not broadcast your insecurities and fears or tell you, “you shouldn’t feel that way.” A therapist might suggest you stop drinking so much or go back to the gym, but I promise, I will never argue with your feelings.

Now, I’m not trying to offend anyone by stating that every family or friendship is filled with anxiety and judgment. But I will go to grave saying that when the stakes are high, we often feel more judged. A non-biased clinician can develop a healthy kinship or “therapeutic alliance” with clients where the high stakes disappear for a bit. This can be a huge relief for most folks. We can learn to use talk therapy as a trial space to speak more freely and collaboratively solve problems. Whether around other people, or perhaps alone in our thoughts, the spotlight of judgment can get so bright and hot that we can barely stand to look in the mirror. Somehow, we have to find the voice that says, “You know what, Frank? You ain’t all bad. Let’s greet this day knowing that I’m gonna do my best, and I’m gonna believe that most other folks do the same.”

To dig a little deeper into the result of some good talks with a stranger, we can even learn how to talk to our friends and families with a new vocabulary that helps us deal with conflict more gracefully. In fact, dealing with external and internal conflict is what counseling is for. Another person’s perspective might help with issues like the in-laws, those dang kids, the nasty boss, the husband/wife, nosy neighbor, the mayor, school board president or president of such and such country, etc. Or, you might need help with that “voice of gloom” that seems to crash upon us from nowhere, telling you that you will never succeed, or that you cannot possibly find peace. If you want help for life’s problems, by all means, make an appointment and talk to someone.

So, to conclude for now, why is this mental health stuff not necessarily a big puzzle? Here’s why: I do acknowledge that situations and people can be complex, but the concept of “oversimplifying” also gets a bad rap. In fact, I believe in “super-simplifying.” When faced with especially large problems, we need to go in the opposite direction. We need to shrink the size of the solutions to help ourselves out of big messes. Otherwise, implementing the big fancy solution just becomes another problem. Finding simple ways to deal with life has been my goal, both professionally and personally.

The goal of living with less mental clutter and stress does not mean that change comes without some effort on your part; but, WHAT IF IT IS EASY? If you believe we are creatures with a birthright to create our thoughts, behaviors and feelings in the same way that our thoughts, behaviors and feelings at times seem totally forced on us, then are you not worth the effort? Heck, I’ll answer that: You’re worth it.

Come in and make new plans if you don’t like who you are, or where you are. What if making a start was easier than you thought? What if making that change gave you relief that you never could have imagined? Well? I have good news, and perhaps bad news: It’s up to you, Frank.

pafflerbach-small Pete Afflerbach, MA LCMHC is a licensed mental health counselor. Pete works with all ages and has particular specialties in working with teens and those struggling with addiction. Pete is enthusiastic about helping people break down the challenges they face into smaller, more manageable pieces.

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