Do I Really Need Counselling?

Do I Really Need Counselling?
Question

I’ve been having a problem and someone I respect suggested I get professional help. I don’t like the idea of telling my problems to a stranger, and I don’t see what good it would do. Also, I don’t have extra cash to spare. How do I know if I really need to see someone, and how do I find someone?

Answer

There are many reasons to seek professional counseling. Some people use their sessions with a professional not only to air out grievances but also as a means of getting to the bottom of what might be causing the problem.

We can use the analogy of weeds in a garden: generally speaking, they don’t belong there.

Some are pretty and can be left alone, possibly because they might even enhance the beauty of your garden in an unexpected way.

Most of the time, however, they are not pretty, they can spread and take over the garden by cluttering it up with things that don’t belong there.

If you attend to the issue immediately, chances are the weeds will still have shallow roots and can be easily removed. If left alone to thrive on their own, however… some weeds can develop roots that plunge so deep it is almost impossible to entirely remove them. In fact, sometimes they tunnel underground and new weeds sprout elsewhere, in places and ways you’d never expect.

By then, the weed might be taking over the entire yard, instead of just choking the garden!

It’s the same with knotty problems.  Some problems are just little dilemmas – no big deal, just a little strategizing and it’s over.

However, there are problems that are complex, to the point that they can have a negative impact on life in more than one area. When such a problem affects one’s ability to function at his or her best, it’s time to look for help.

Professional help is useful because a trained counselor can uncover all the various layers of an issue that may not be immediately apparent to the person suffering with the problem. That is often necessary because there are sometimes a number of different issues which must be addressed in order for things to improve.

A trained professional also knows how to help someone help themselves to resolve those issues.

No one likes telling their problems to a stranger – but sometimes it is easier to share personal issues with someone you don’t know, because such a person has no preconceived notions about who you are and how you should be. As a result, he or she will also have no specific expectations of you.

Professional counselors also act as sounding boards, when you are trying to figure out what is going on and what to do about it. You have the opportunity to say and share anything whatsoever with such a person, without ever having to worry about being judged.

In terms of finances, no one can determine for you what you can or can’t afford. Private counseling can be expensive, but this does not rule out professional help for those with limited incomes. There are many mental health clinics with sliding scales as well as some that accept Medicaid or HMO coverage with token co-pays, and sometimes not even that.

Low-cost counseling can usually be found at the local Jewish Family Service agency (JFS) and at other nonprofit mental health agencies. In some areas, there are outpatient mental health clinics at the local hospitals, especially those that are attached to a medical school. They can sometimes also be found at universities that offer studies in psychology or social work.

It is perfectly reasonable to ask about the qualifications of the professional counselor you see.  Bear in mind that in most, if not all bona fide mental health clinics, professional counselors have at least a Bachelor’s Degree in a related field. 

In some communities, counseling by a professionally trained rabbi, (generally referred to as “pastoral counseling”) is available.  It is important to note, however, that there is a major difference between a professional pastoral counselor, and a rabbi or other spiritual leader in the community with no professional training.

A person who is not professionally trained can do more harm than good, because they do not fully understand the intricacies of human dynamics.

There are a number of untrained, unprofessional self-styled “counselors” and “therapists” in any religious community – many of whom charge at least as much as a trained professional and in a number of cases, even more. That is unethical behavior and it is unwise to seek help from such an individual.

Only you can decide if you really need to see someone; but if someone you truly trust advises you to seek help, it’s probably a good idea to at least give it a try. 

You might be surprised at how it can change your life.


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