I decided to borrow from the world of fashion to write about the growing popularity of counseling. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the title term, “it’s the new black”refers to the newest and hottest trend. Day after day, I find myself pleasantly surprised by the number of people I encounter who share that they are in counseling. “My therapist told me” seems to be the phrase du jour. Of course, being a therapist myself, I subscribe to the idea that everyone can benefit from counseling. I know and see the great good that counseling brings to my clients. But personal bias aside, what are the benefits of counseling? Why should counseling be on the shelf, right next to the toothbrush, as one of the most important forms of self care?
For starters, what is wrong with wanting to know ourselves better? Personal awareness is learning about the how’s, why’s and what’s of how we tick. Self-discovery is not just for 20-somethings. Every age brings us opportunities for self-knowledge and growth. The help and perspective of an objective and caring listener can be paramount in helping translate and transform those opportunities into new insights. We can learn about relationship mistakes, patterns of unhealthy eating, and poor methods of coping with stress. We can come to understand why that new promotion is frightening or why that particular coworker gets under our skin. We can explore and come to know our deepest desires and fears. We can act on those desires and transform those fears. Insight and learning lead to behavior changes, which will ultimately result in a richer and fuller life. Self-awareness leads to deeper and more intimate relationships with ourselves and ultimately with others.
Aside from personal growth, life can be challenging and complex. Sometimes, we fall. Counseling can help us get back up when challenges overwhelm us. As humans, we are often vulnerable to the downs of life. Of course we are! Life can be hard. So, what is wrong with asking for help? In fact, it’s healthy and courageous to seek help. Signs that we might need help include: often feeling down, eating too much or too little, problems with sleep, outbursts of anger, feeling anxious, having frequent nightmares, road rage, isolating from friends, problems with concentration, and focus at work. The listening ear and questioning of a good therapist can lead to empowerment, enhanced self-esteem, and better coping with life’s challenges. Challenges that we all face include the loss of a loved one, divorce, loss of a job, children leaving home, reorganization at work, aging, and dealing with difficult family members.
Take advantage of life’s opportunities for growth and transition. Bring your curiosity, bring your fears, bring your hopes, and bring your troubles into the welcoming office of a compassionate and wise therapist. Open yourself up to counseling.
Laura J. Pentoney MA, LPC, is a therapist who specializes in helping individual adults overcome histories of trauma, depression and eating disorders. She witnesses the many benefits of counseling through the growth of her courageous clients. She provides counseling services through Maria Droste Counseling Center.