Common fears and misconceptions about seeking help
Initiating counseling is a very big step for most people. In fact it is very common to have some apprehension about seeking professional help with personal issues. There are concerns about whether or not treatment is done with compassion and respect. Fear of experiencing shame, ridicule, and humiliation can be an inhibiting factor. They wonder if the counselor will treat them with unconditional positive regard and be non-judgmental. Some have anxiety about the social stigmata associated with mental health issues and have serious questions about confidentiality. Another person might believe that their situation is so unique that no one on this earth has ever had to deal with such issues. On the other hand, there are those that might think that their circumstances are not that significant and hope for eventual resolution with no type of intervention. There are some who feel that in asking for help they are a bother, a nuisance,or that they might be a disruption to the status quo. They might wonder if counseling is really worth the time. Finally, there are those who don’t know how to go about getting the help that they need.
Getting help is a sign of strength not weakness
Mustering up the motivation to seek help is a significant step. It is actually part of the healing process. This is not just because it is the very first step. Asking for help shows a level of commitment for change. It is actually a sign of strength and a good indicator for future healing. Let’s just say that the person who goes to counseling with a willing and open heart has a better prognosis for healing than the one who goes into it kicking and screaming.This is not only intuitive but also backed up by studies. One has to want to be helped.
Compassionate and well-trained professionals
Most counselors and therapists, if not all, go into the field out of a desire to help others. Many have a deep well of compassion and sincere concern for the well-being of their clients. Counselors are trained extensively in the principles of ethics. In order to obtain a state license they are committed to abiding by the rules of confidentiality, client privacy, and rights. Counselors are required to study diversity which involves a lot of focus on treating persons from various cultures and orientations. This is because everyone on the planet is different. All counselors and clients have unique personalities and backgrounds that they bring to the process. Just as there are no two people exactly alike (even twins are different), every counselor using the same theoretical approaches will end up putting a personal spin to it.
On the other hand, people are not so different that counselors cannot find similarities. No one’s problems are too big or too small. Everyone has issues. Think about it. Is there anyone who truly has it all together? This is not talk about characters from movies, popular television programs, or novels. Is there anyone who in real life does not have challenges? Life is a journey with hills and valleys. No one is unscathed from trials. Even the picture perfect family has issues scratching below the surface.
A person is not a diagnosis
One concern about the counseling process is with labeling a person with a disorder. In fact, some therapeutic approaches to counseling avoid diagnosing altogether. If done haphazardly the diagnostic process itself can indeed pathologize a person. Some clients have concern about diagnoses on their medical charts following them throughout their entire lives. Insurance companies require diagnostic labels for payment. However, such information given to a third party is protected property as there are specific laws pertaining to patient privacy and confidentiality. Obviously counselors that do not accept insurance reimbursement in most cases have fewer parties involved with a client’s personal information. Whatever the situation, it is important to remember that a client is not a diagnosis. A person with depression or anxiety has just as much dignity as a person with a heart disease or high blood pressure. A person would never be labeled a heart attack or a hypertensive. Neither should one be called a manic or a schizophrenic.
Some not so obvious ways people go about asking for help
There are many ways that people might go about asking for help. While some do actually scream for it, many do it nonverbally. They drop clues and ask in ways that are not so obvious. Children often beg for help by acting out and/or misbehaving. This is because unconsciously they discover that attention for negative activity is better than no attention at all. Some teens and young adults might show a dramatic change in their behavior for the worse. A previously good student might suddenly start failing most subjects in school. A person who is previously outgoing and talkative might become significantly introverted and reserved. Someone who is usually calm might become more easily agitated or have frequent crying episodes. Or a person might appear to be unrealistically happy. It is common for some to deny they need any help. Or another might have trouble just asking.
An example of motivation and being persistent for change
This Sunday’s Gospel (Mark 10:46-52) features a man who is insistent on getting the help that he needs. Bartimeaus is a blind man and a beggar. Upon hearing that Jesus was near, Bartimeaus shouts, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me”. Others tell him to be quiet but this causes the blind man to shout even louder and to be even more persistent and annoying to those around him. As a result the Gospel reads: “Jesus said to him in reply, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ The blind man replied to Him, ’Master, I want to see.’ Jesus told him, ‘Go your way; your faith has saved you.’ Immediately he received his sight and followed Him on the way.”
The squeaky wheel gets the oil
This passage is probably among the best examples of someone being motivated for change. Bartimeaus persisted in spite of the discouragement of others. And his efforts got results. Ever hear of the saying that the squeaky wheel always get the oil? He didn’t allow his life circumstances to hold him back. He asked, he sought, he knocked on the door, and “he threw aside his cloak,” for help. His healing was so life changing that upon receiving his sight, Bartimeaus “followed Him along the way.” His old cloak was left in the dust.
I wonder how many of us are blind or in need of insight but are found weighed down by misconceptions, circumstances, and inhibitions? An important piece of this Gospel account that cannot be overlooked is the role that Bartimaeaus’ faith played in his recovery. Bartimeaus surrendered himself blindly to Jesus. He abandoned himself in order to obtain help. “Jesus told him, ‘Go your way; your faith has healed you.’ Jesus’ healing was such that it made Bartimeaus whole, not only physically but also spiritually and emotionally.
A lot can be learned from the humble cries of this blind beggar.