Blog #12

Posted by: Curtis Stevens on October 24, 2011 12:00 pm

O.k. now, after an extended tangent, my second observation as a counsellor attending counselling as a client; the stigma of going to counselling. 

I felt strange going to counselling at first.  I got caught up in the shoulds.  “I’m a therapist, I should be able to know how to deal with things.”  “I help people through their own depression, anxiety, worries, troubles, I should just use the same things I teach them.”  Truth is, I was embarrassed to be going to counselling.  I was telling people I had a doctor’s appointment when they asked where I was going or to get time off work to go.  Not aware of what possessed me, but I did mention it to a colleague, and she informed me she was also going to counselling.  As I talked to my colleagues and my friends about it, the more natural it seemed that I would be going for counselling. The stigma it seems, was coming from me; not some external source.  In an article produced by Alberta Health Services, “Stigma is the reason two-thirds of Candadians living with mental illness donot seek help. (Seto, 2011).  The same article also stated that “…one in five Canadians experience some measure of mental illness every year (Seto, 2011).”  That same article talks about the negative image that media portrays of people with mental illness, that one is looked down upon for taking time off work due to mental illness.  I don’t know that that is always the case.  I’m sure it still exists, but have an idealistic sense of hope that it has diminished.  As a therapist, I should be a steward of the profession.  I should be trumpeting the benefits to all.  I should be talking about what counsellors do.  After all, if I truly believe that counselling is helpful to others, am I not somewhat hypocritical for not seeking the same help myself, the same way I would seek out a doctor or a massage?  As a matter of fact, attending counselling may give me a better understanding  of the counsellor/client relationship.  Having had this experience, I can foresee addressing a client’s feelings around coming to see me; the support they have from their significant others.

 Seto, Colleen 2011; Confronting the Stigma of Mental Illness; Apple magazine; Fall 2011/Issue 5:  Alberta Health Services  (forgive me for not adhering to APA… it would take me forever to find my old manual).

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

1 comment on “Blog #12”

  1. Irene Brady says:

    Hi Curtis,
    I can relate to your comments on the stigma attached to mental illness and to your comments RE: as a therapist you feel you should be able to apply the techniques you use with your clients, to yourself. I recently completed my Master in Counselling degree this past June. I have been pursuing my own personal counselling for the past 2 years. I have to say that I do not have a problem telling others that I pursue my own counselling. As you say, pursuing our own counselling gives us a better understanding of the client/counsellor relationship. I agree. In fact, when as a client myself I experienced firsthand a rupture in the client/counsellor relationship, I feel this has given me a sense of how difficult that is for the client (possibly one of my clients in the future).

    To add to your comments on the stigma attached to mental illness, the Mental Health First Aid manual also states that “In Canada, one person in three will experience a mental health problem in their lifetime” (p. 2). The facilitator of the course informed our group that there is a belief that this may actually be 1 in 2 rather than 1 in 3.

    I am not yet employed as a counsellor but having such a profound belief in the need to support others, I took training to volunteer to facilitate a mental health support group. During the training I asked the trainer how we reduce the stigma associated with mental illness. Her reply was:” By telling our own stories”. At that moment my heart sank and I realized that I too struggle with the stigma of mental illness. I am almost 50 yrs. old and my family of origin has been deeply affected by mental illness. The good news is, having facilitated 2 monthly family support groups RE: mental illness, as I share my own family experience it normalizes the triumphs and struggles and is healing for me as well. I firmly believe that openly discussing mental illness and supporting others to do the same, people feel more comfortable speaking to their friends, families, and co-workers about difficult topics related to mental illness. This is the beginning of reducing that stigma.

    Curtis, thank you for sharing your struggle with seeking counselling. For myself, counselling has allowed me to live life more fully and isn’t that the purpose of this work that we do? So kudos to you. I highly recommend personal counselling for all practitioners.

    Mental Health First Aid (2008). Alberta Mental Health Board.

    Irene Brady

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