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Counseling: Luxurious Taboo

Key: Counseling is a paid for luxury that many don’t indulge.

Living It: Get counseling.

Clinical Concept: Confronting the stigma of mental illness via applied cost-benefit analysis and cognitive reframing.

We are sent into the world to live to the full everything that awakens within
us and everything that comes toward us.      

– John O’ Donohue, Irish Poet

Do you like chocolate? Dumb question.

I do and so do 9 out of 10 people worldwide according to a gourmet website. “The topic of chocolate is universal,” they said. Chocolate is an every-day luxury to which we all can relate. Though it has a myriad of health and emotional benefits (in moderation), it is sadly, not covered by health insurance. Other luxuries like lobster, spa days, champagne and caviar are also not covered.

But counseling is.

Counseling is covered by insurance, yet it is rarely seen as a luxury and sought out as such, if sought out willingly at all. I firmly believe that it’s time for counseling be taken out of the realm of stigma and into the realm where it originated. Counselors were coveted advisors to the rich, the powerful; the kings and queens of the world.

Alas, over time counselors began to be associated with weakness, not power. “Many people feel embarrassed or ashamed of their symptoms,” according to clinical psychologist Nikki Massey-Hastings, because today “our society places illogical taboos on mental health issues over physical conditions” (Tartovsky, 2018).

As we well know here, balancing our society’s mindset between mental and physical illness is a passion of mine. Today I write as a counselor and a person who has benefited from wise counselors. Ethical counselors—and I assert that anyone who wants to maintain good health, should do so. We see dentists every six months just to clean the gunk off our teeth and no one bats an eye. Yet, imagine the reaction if I said, “Nope, I’ve never been to a dentist in 43 years!” And dentists are never considered luxurious, but counselors could, and should be.

Luxurious Counsel

Counseling provides a safe haven for precisely that kind of free-ranging release: You can say things in the therapist’s office, with the therapist present, that would be incendiary or hurtful in your living room.

– Laura Wasser, Celebrity Lawyer     

Let’s decide for ourselves if counseling should be considered a luxury. I’ll give you three potential barriers to this idea, and then refute them.

Only “crazy people” go to counseling.

I’ve heard it, you’ve heard it. It’s wrong. I would agree that most people who go to counseling have some need that it’s meeting, no matter if it’s a diagnosed issue or not, but should never mar their character. Dr. Deborah Serani, author, clinical psychologist and client who overcomes her own depression said it best. “Mental illness is a combination of neurobiology and psychological influences, not a weakness in character” (Tartovsky, 2018). Quite the opposite of is true: A counselor helps a client evaluate their life, their strengths, their wellbeing and their goals and then problem-solves, plans supports that client in achieving those goals. That is a strong person who is becoming stronger.

Now, let’s ask ourselves: Wouldn’t I like to talk with someone about my life, strengths, wellbeing and help me set some goals? Then help me figure out how to get there? Someone just for me? That’s like chocolate and champagne for the soul.

I don’t have time or energy for counseling.

Tartakovzky (2018) noted that it seems like time for contemplation is scarce in our hectic lifestyle, and Ryan Howes, Ph.D. can relate. “Many of us are so tired from working hard and dealing with emotional stressors, there’s no energy left to talk through problems,” he said. We also find this mentality in private practice and behavioral hospitals where the days are so full that counselors put aside crucial clinical supervision. But it doesn’t matter if we’re talking about a counselor in a busy hospital, a working parent with an over-full schedule or a teen on three sports teams “therapy can actually be a source of energy, not a drain.” Plus, with the advent of TeleHealth online counseling methods, you can virtually get counseling anytime to fit any schedule. And you don’t even have to wear shoes or leave the house.

Let’s ask again: Would I like someone to talk with about whatever I want to talk about, on my schedule, in a cozy private office or on my favorite electronic device while I’m in my slippers sipping tea? Sounds like a spa for the mind.

I don’t need counseling, I talk to my [friends, spouse, cat] about my problems.

Good, and we should talk to them. Yes, even the cat (see this fun article). I bet many of us get shoulder or foot rubs from our spouses, too. But it’s not the same as going to a professional. They’re trained, they set aside time for us to be the sole focus of their effort, they’re sworn to secrecy and they’re good enough at their job to be paid for it. Another key thing is that there is no give and take. We’re expected to eventually shift topics to the other person when we’re talking to friends about our problems, but could you imagine the reaction if we finished our massage and then tried to do it to the masseuse? The same is true in counseling. Their role is to pour into us; to listen and to give.

Final question: Would I like someone to make my needs the sole focus of their attention, skills and profession? It’s a massage for the heart.

Counseling is most assuredly a luxury, when approached from the healthiest point of view, and one I encourage everyone to try. Call your insurance company. Ask them if they cover spas, chocolate and champagne. Then ask for a list of counseling providers in your area. It’s luxury that we already pay for, we can all always benefit from and we may just start to change the mindset of our society with our little indulgence.

Tartakovsky, M. (2018) What Prevents People From Seeking Mental Health Treatment? Retrieved from: https://psychcentral.com/blog/what-prevents-people-from-seeking-mental-health-treatment/

Gourmet Healthy Chocolates (2019) Retrieved from: https://gourmethealthychocolates.com/

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