Lies I tell people: “I love counseling!”


Sometimes I lie about things.

Like counseling.

I pretend I am an advocate for counseling. When someone asks me about it or brings it up in conversation, I say, “Yeah! I go to counseling. It’s great!”

I’m lying.

I go to counseling. That part’s true. The “great” part? Not so true.

Truth is, counseling doesn’t seem to be working for me. If I’m honest, it has only made things worse.

So, why do I lie?

Because I want to like counseling. I want it to work for me and change my life. But I don’t, and it doesn’t.

And I haven’t been ready to admit that until now.

I’ve heard awesome things about counseling. I was excited when I finally worked up the courage to go. I anticipated that counseling would give me a safe place to talk about my problems, let me figure out ways to manage them, and maybe even help me become a normal, functioning human being.

I hated it the first week.

But I thought, “I’ll just give it time. Nothing gets better over night.”

And I hated it the second week…

And the third….

And the forth….

And it’s not that it wasn’t helping. It’s that it seemed like it was doing the opposite. The day before my counseling session, I’d be jumpy and nervous and panicky because of my anxiety about the session. And the day after I’d be depressed almost to the point of incapacitation because of the things that had been brought up in the session.

But I kept thinking, “It will get better. I have a lot of crap to work through. It has to hurt before it can heal, right?”

After five months, though, I’m starting to wonder if that’s true.

It’s Wednesday, which means there’s a counseling session at 1 pm tomorrow, and I’m shaking just thinking about it.

The longer I go without seeing results, the harder this gets.

It’s probably my fault that this isn’t working out, but honestly, I’m trying my hardest. I don’t know what else to do.

Now, when I think of quitting counseling, I think of rainbows and sunshine and kittens and chocolate and the Queen song, “We Are The Champions.”

But if I were to quit, I would feel like I failure.

I’m afraid I would always wonder what I could have done better. I’m afraid I would always wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t quit. I’m afraid that I’d be giving up on my last hope for normalcy.

And still I hear others praising counseling, and I dishonestly join in with their praises, while secretly wondering, “What am I doing wrong?”

My purpose of this post isn’t to knock counseling. It seems to work for most people and therefore, I recommend it to anyone who feels the need to try it.

I’m not trying to give advice here.

I’m asking for advice.

Has anyone else had a bad counseling experience? Did you quit? Did you try a different approach? Did you try another counselor? Did you look for other solutions to your problems?

I hope to hear from you! I know there are some awesomely smart people who read my blog and I’m sure most of you know a lot more about life than I do. Thanks, readers.

Until then, I’ll ponder the question that’s been in my head for weeks now concerning counseling…

Should I stay, or should I go?


17 thoughts on “Lies I tell people: “I love counseling!”

  1. ha – I’ve been looking around your blog and I totally get this – if only counselling felt like the miraculous cure it’s meant to be! For me, the reality is being a wreck of nerves the days leading up and following sessions, and then leaving feeling even more broken than when I started – but it does, eventually, get better. And for me, knowing that I’ve kept going, is something in itself. Therapy requires a lot of bravery.

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  3. I quit going to my therapist when at the most recent session she kept nodding off. Every time her head bobbed back up, she’d open her eyes extra wide, plaster on a wide smile, and say “well, it sounds like you’re doing really good right now!” I decided to roll with that and kept saying, “yeah, I think I really am.” And then I told her I felt like I was ready for a break and would call back if I needed to see her again. The thought that my issues put a counselor to sleep hasn’t really helped anything, but dang, I’ll admit that’s sadly funny.

    also I’ve been lurking a long time. I can’t remember if I’ve commented before, but I’ve really appreciated a lot of your thoughts. I don’t know why I don’t speak up when something especially gets me.

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  5. It sounds like it’s not a good fit, Sarah.

    Some pain is normal as stuff is worked through, but if you’re miserable AND not seeing progress in the working-through part, it might be time to find a different counselor.

  6. Sarah, I’m not a therapist. I don’t play one on TV. But I do work in the field of mental health (supportive counseling, care coordination) and work with many people in the process of counseling/therapy. If there is any single issue that has cropped up over the years is that not every therapist is right for every patient.

    I would strongly encourage you to find a different therapist. Interview a few. I’ve known many people looking for a new family doctor or OB/GYN who would make appointments and “interview” several prospective doctors before settling on one. And they’re really only looking at your body. A counselor is looking into your soul (as much as you allow anyways!).

    God made us to operate in community. He saw that lonely man and decided that this, out of all that he created, was not good. I don’t kid myself into thinking I can sail through life all by myself. I need others. I pray you are able to find someone with whom you can make a good connection and find some healing.

  7. I tried counseling too, once. It didn’t work for me, either. It took up time out of my day, and I didn’t feel like my counselor and I were finding the root of my problem. I stopped going, and though I felt bad that I quit by just missing every appointment, I don’t feel bad about quitting. If it’s causing that level of emotional pain, you don’t have to keep going, either. Sometimes that’s God’s way of telling you, “Actually, that’s not where you need to be right now.” He loves you; He will find a way to help you heal, maybe where you least expect it. I hardly even knew you when we lived on the same hall at Grace, and yet God decided to use your words (words that scared me at first; I was pretty anti-feminism at the time) to help me work through the crap I was stuck in. Sorry about how rambly that was, you you’ve helped more than I know how to express, and I want to at least try to return the favor.

  8. Yes!!! This exactly!!! I’ve seen counseling do wonders for other people and I’ve even thought of becoming a counselor. But actually being in counseling seems to make me get worse. Which has made me think that I must be the problem. Or maybe counseling just isn’t for everyone. I kept going even after one session I was so upset that I came home and relapsed on self injury after a year, and someone told me the same thing happened to them but that it was good because it was “part of the process.” But I think a lot of it has to do with seeing the right counselor for you, who has experience with your particular issues and even, personality-wise, is a good match, because we’re all different and need different things from a counselor and react in different ways. I guess I’m on hiatus from my second counselor right now. I’m not sure if they were helping me or not. Because of the whole pain = progress thing. My first one was just a really bad match, and I’m glad I switched. So I guess my advice is maybe try seeing someone else if you can.

  9. As a psychologist who is trained in and uses DBT, DBT could be a good option, but it’s hard to find people truly trained in it. My undergrad is in Religious Studies, and my passion is the integration of spirituality and psychology, and DBT is one of the most conducive to spirituality. I’m actually talking to a friend about collaborating on a book related to DBT and Christianity. And for what it’s worth, I actually prefer the existential/humanistic orientations, particularly that of Viktor Frankl.

    Sometimes the methodology is not as important as the fit between therapist and client. Rather than quitting or sticking it out, I would highly encourage you to discuss your struggles with your current therapist. I always encourage my own clients to talk to me about what’s not working to see if we can come up with a solution, which could be a transfer.

    • I would love to read that book when/if it comes out!! I’ve wanted to see a psychologist who does DBT for awhile now, but I can’t find any who take my insurance. Anyway, it’s really helped a couple of my friends and, from everything I’ve read about it, it sounds really interesting and different from typical talk therapy (which I seem to have hit a wall with).

    • I would love to read that book too! DBT was exactly what I needed. I truly believe the Lord led me there. It was an amazing gift from God. I just can’t rave about it enough.

  10. I highly recommend trying form of cognitive behavioral therapy. I started out with the type of counseling you’re describing and experienced a lot of what you’re experiencing. Then I started what’s called Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, and it’s changed my life. It’s a secular kind of therapy–gasp!–but it aligns with a lot of biblical truths.

    Finding the right therapy/therapist can take time, but it’s worth it.

  11. I was in counseling off and on as a teenager – when I was 14 because of anorexia and extreme depression, and when I was 15 after my mother discovered that I’d been cutting. And frankly…I had the EXACT same reaction as you. My sessions were weekly, and when I was 14 I wouldn’t eat for 4-5 days after a session. My counselor was thin and pretty and blonde and perky – everything I wasn’t. And I always felt guilty, and sad, and like a failure. When I was 15, I would come away extremely angry. I was SO angry…all the time. I don’t remember why. I just…I hated it. I felt like the only reason they “cared” was because they were being paid to care. I guess I was cynical back then, too.

    Now, with all the PTSD and possible infertility and dad having a terminal illness crap that’s going on, I feel like I should give it a try again…but I’m afraid of going back, lest things get exponentially worse yet again. Because I was a lot more resilient as a teenager than I am now – and I was a lot less alone then, too.

    If it’s not helping…I think it’s okay to quit. I don’t think it means you’re a failure. I think it means that you’re aware of what is healthy and what isn’t.

    Praying for you.

    • I feel like my counselor is trying to force pity for me. I don’t want pity…especially not fake pity. But I might be interpreting her approach incorrectly. Still, that’s how I feel with the things she says to me and the looks she gives me.

      Also, I decided to bring up sex, and I felt that she was trying to change my convictions on abstinence rather than trying to help me gain a healthier perspective on my sexuality. I didn’t appreciate that.

      • …so, maybe it would be healthy to quit. I just feel like I wouldn’t know what else to do if I did. So much uncertainty.

      • Yikes. Geez. Yeah…I would say either find someone else who is more empathetic and not trying to force their viewpoints on you, or just break free. Just my two cents’, though.

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