What the hell is a counsellor anyways
Hello world, it’s me, I hope you’re all doing wonderfully.
So, the topic that I wanted to blog about today has to do with what I ACTUALLY do as a mental health counsellor. In my personal life, I have started to become more and more surprised at the misconstrued perception the average person has of what a clinical counsellor/psychotherapist actually does while in a session with someone. Which also is a thing I should share quickly, the terminology for a counsellor/psychotherapist is annoyingly confusing. Basically they're the same thing, and if you want to learn more, here is our governing body sharing how they have no clue what the difference is: https://www.ccpa-accp.ca/profession/ . So, I very comfortably float between clinical counsellor, therapist, and psychotherapist depending on things as frivolous as the weather or my mood. Okay, moving on!
So, I’ve been asked questions like: “so you like help people find jobs and stuff?”. Like, uhm, woah, no, very much no, that is quite far from what I actually do. And it’s not that I’m judging that person for that question, it’s just really a shock that someone thinks that’s what a counsellor does – no judgement, just wooooooooooowww, the world needs to be informed!
Another situation that surprised me was in the documentary Operation Varsity Blues; the College Admission Scandal (on Netflix, go watch it, it's wild), someone suggested Rick Singer was a therapist – and I, again, was like WHAT???? Why would someone suggest that Rick Signer is anything close to a therapist?? He helps people get admitted to college, that is so INCREDIBLY FAR from my work that it’s baffling. And I get that the social confusion because of the lack of definition for therapist/counsellor probably adds to this issue, however, I just really want to help make things more clear. Because this could mean a lot of people are missing out on resources that could be really helpful, if they think that a therapist simply helps someone find jobs or get admitted to college.
So, world, I’ve been working on my elevator pitch. So that when someone asks me what I do, and what a therapist does, or I’m frozen because of a remarkably shocking question that has my brain going a mile a minute trying to figure out where to even start to help this poor fellow understand, I will know what to say!
This is what I came up with: in it’s most simplified form, a therapist does mental restructuring. I think that can be particularly hard for some people to understand because it is so frustratingly intangible. It’s all in your head. You leave my office space with new skills, enlightenments, perspective shifts, and all of these things are not something you can frame and put on your wall as a clear sign of achievement. Additionally, because of the stigma behind mental health, counselling terms are not very well known socially. For example, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) works on identifying and combatting cognitive distortions. Cognitive distortions are psychological assumption or misalignment from reality that your brain does (unintentionally/habitually), that typically causes mental distress. For example: catastrophizing, is a cognitive distortion where you jump to assume the absolute worst. Identifying mental patterns that cause distress can be super helpful because you can learn new patterns that feel more pleasant and will lead to more comfortable feelings, even in the face of challenge. I guess the biggest thing is that mental discomfort has become so normalized. Depression and anxiety are rampant in society. But I would argue, that in the same way that when you feel physical pain you go see your doctor, when you feel emotional pain you should go see your therapist. Life does not need to be painful, whether it’s your body or your mind that is suffering. And because counselling/therapy is so newly accepted socially, it’s not a resource that a lot of people are aware of.
Helpful, fun analogies:
I call coming to my office as going to the “brain-gym”. This is because it’s a space to practice mental restructuring tactics (like mindfulness, or being the observer to your feelings).
In the same way we all eat healthy, we exercise, we get regular sleep, we should also be kind to our minds. If you’re not being kind to your mind it’s like eating McDonalds every day, and that shit will eventually catch up to you.
A therapist is also like a mental-mechanic! We go in, we look around, we look for what’s leaking or what’s rubbing or what’s about to fall apart. We tell you the work that needs to be done, and together we make that change happen. You get to go back into the world feeling like you can rely on what you’re driving, because, unlike cars, you can’t trade in your mind for something new!
So, yeah, that’s what I do. Please ask any questions if you have any!! Let's sort this all out.