Should You Seek Counseling or Therapy?
By Randi Morse
Everyone has a story. We all have a past that is the fabric woven into our lives. Our past has helped us to become who we are. That doesn't mean that it doesn't leave emotional scars. Far too often we are told to "get over it" or "deal with it." If you're talking about getting over accidentally burning your toast for breakfast or the fact that you haven't vacuumed soon enough, that's one thing. But to tell someone to "get over" an emotional issue is simply wrong. When you're struggling it can be normal to wonder if you should get professional help, if you should seek out counseling or therapy. But what is the difference, and should you seek professional care?
A counselor is a lot like a guide. Imagine you're taking a walk through a nature trail where you see beautiful greenery and trees and may catch sight of an animal or two. Now take that same trail with a nature guide. The guide can point out the squirrel tracks you never noticed and can help you to learn which mushrooms you can eat and which ones you can't. In both experiences you are in the beauty of nature, but the experience with the guide helps you to learn things, enabling you to make better choices. This is what a counselor is like. A counselor will work with you to identify what you believe to be issues and will help you learn techniques to work through problems that you're having. There are counselors who specialize in things like career counselors or marriage counselors, and there are also general counselors.
Most mental health experts agree that clients are most likely to seek out a counselor if they have short-term problems and most likely to see a therapist if they have long-term problems. Therapists are often more trained in helping their clients deal with serious mental health problems.
The choice as to whether to seek professional care for your mental health issues is completely up to you, but as a rule of thumb it's never a bad idea to speak with a counselor or therapist to see if they believe you would benefit from their care. Just remember that there is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. If you were going to build a swing set but you have never worked with wood before, you would seek the help of a carpenter. Counselors and therapists are experts in their field and can help in a variety of ways.
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