Surely only crazy people go to therapy…
Surely only crazy people go to therapy…
Questions on mental health support
I can’t really take the credit for that title, but I think it’s so apt that I’ve decided to borrow an idea for today’s subject from a book written by Andrea Jolander (Da gehen doch nur Bekloppte hin. Aus dem Alltag einer Psychotherapeutin; Heyne, 2012). It’s well worth reading.
Today, I would like to focus on the core element of my work at the university: mental health counselling. This subject throws up any number of questions and concerns, which is very understandable – after all, for most people this is an exceptional situation.
Perhaps you’ve also spent a long time thinking about turning to a counsellor for support on a matter that you’ve been struggling with. But, every time, you drop the idea and try to plough ahead all on your own. Things go much better again for a while and you almost forget that you even had a problem in the first place. But then it rears its ugly head again, maybe even worse than before. You realise that you can’t – and really shouldn’t – go on like this.
You’re not sure what to do – what can be done to help you out? What will it be like confiding in a stranger about a very personal issue? Can you be certain that nobody will find out what you talked about?
Here are some common concerns and my responses to them. Maybe this will make it easier for you to reach a decision...
To begin with, let’s go back to that initial idea – although no-one really says it out loud, lots of people are troubled by the thought that maybe: only crazy people go to therapy.
Well, that’s obviously not true! The clients who come to counselling are totally normal people who are otherwise perfectly well grounded and have already achieved a lot in life. But they have some issues that can’t be resolved in the usual ways. No matter how big – or small – your problems might seem, you can be pretty certain that there more things right with you than wrong.
I have good friends and a caring family – can’t I just talk to them?
People who you can talk to openly about things that are really troubling you are an invaluable resource that is definitely worth looking after. It’s true that fruitful discussions in private settings can play a big part in helping to solve problems and safeguarding your psychological wellbeing.
But perhaps you’ve noticed that sometimes it’s not so easy to show people who you trust a completely different side to your personality, which might destroy the image that these people have of you. Or maybe you don’t want to burden or worry other people, so you keep your problems to yourself.
In many cases, it’s helpful just to speak with someone outside your personal circle, who can share their view from the outside and examine your problem neutrally – without being personally invested in the situation – from a range of different perspectives.
But people just talk there – what good is that?
You’re right – I can’t solve your problems for you or take decisions for you. But I’m convinced that you have what it takes to turn things around and start moving in the right direction. Perhaps you need a bit of support to move away from entrenched thought patterns and reactions.
Communication can bring about changes in any issue. The opportunity to talk freely about difficulties will take away some of the strain you’re feeling inside, clearing the way for you to look at things from new angles and arrive at new solutions.
Other people have far bigger problems – I’m afraid that people won’t take my worries seriously.
Counselling can cover anything that makes you feel anxious. An issue becomes important as soon as it starts causing problems persistently – no matter what it is.
And it also makes much more sense to look for help before the situation gets out of hand. The best time to talk to a counsellor is when you notice small problems flaring up again and again, and putting out these fires takes up a big chunk of your energy.
My problem has nothing to do with my studies – can I still come and see you?
Of course! Your studies don’t take place in a vacuum, totally isolated from the other factors that influence your personality. If you have just been through a difficult break-up, you’re facing conflicts at work or depression makes every day a struggle, this will have an impact on your performance and motivation – meaning that it affects your studies, too.
I try to cope with everything on my own, and I usually manage it. How can someone who isn’t so familiar with the situation help at all?
I’m sure you’ve already thought long and hard about the issue you’re facing and tried to come up with some solutions. Obviously, nobody knows your particular situation as well as you do. And it’s not my job to be smarter than you or provide you with tailor-made recipes for solving your problems.
I’m here to support you as you try to get to the root of your problem, and to help you build up a clear understanding of what the underlying issues are – as well as your personal responses to them.
Counselling is a special discussion setting that often opens up new perspectives and makes it easier to unlock your creative potential for dealing with problems.
I don’t want anyone to find out about my problems – are the issues I discuss in counselling treated confidentially?
Trust is the most important factor that enables you to speak openly about a situation. As a clinical and health psychologist and psychotherapist, I’m legally obliged to maintain client confidentiality. The contents of our discussions, and the actual fact that you have been to counselling, will never be shared with anyone outside the consultation room.
The psychological consultation is only available in German - if you need counselling in English, please contact the Psychological Student Counselling Service of the Ministry: https://www.studierendenberatu...