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Why is there a stigma around counselling?

For whatever reason, there is still a certain stigma surrounding the idea of getting counselling. Some might say that this is more apparent in the UK as opposed to somewhere like America, for example. In the US, there appears to be much more acceptance towards the idea of receiving therapy. People will pass on the number of their therapist like they would that of a reliable mechanic or the location of their favourite restaurant. Therapy is almost seen as 'the norm' and treated as a monthly expense. And if you think about it, why wouldn't you?

Effective therapy should improve you as a person. If you feel like you're a better person then wouldn't it follow that you would be happier, which will likely translate into treating loved ones better. Surely your world is a better place if you and those around you are happy within it.

So regular therapy is almost like performing regular maintenance on your car. It ensures you're running smoothly and efficiently and hopefully stops any unexpected breakdowns.

However, here in the UK there is a different mindset altogether. Maybe it's all part of our stereotypical 'stiff upper lip' image? Maybe it's a generational thing that is a hangover from the 'blitz mentality' where people didn't have time to feel sorry for themselves and were expected to just get on with it.

Whatever the reason, there is no denying that some people feel embarrassed to admit that they are even considering getting counselling, let alone actually having regular sessions. They feel that getting some sort of help in this way is a sign of weakness. "Why can't you sort your own stuff out?" or "There are plenty of people worse off than you" are the sorts of comments that can lead a person to not gain help. Unfortunately these comments are also born out of ignorance regarding what counselling is and how it can help a person.

They only way that things are going to change is if people are more honest and open, allowing for more discussions to take place in society about how beneficial effective counselling can be. When high profile sports men and women or celebrities open up about their own experiences with things like depression and then also inform the public that counselling helped them through dark times in their life, it does go some way to improving public perception but that will always be tempered with comments such as "What as he got to be depressed about when he has all that money?"

We still seem to be a long way from being a society that embraces the idea of counselling as a way of improving ourselves, but we're not quite as far away from it as we were maybe 20 years ago.

I hope to see the day when a counsellor will happily be able to run his practice knowing that his clients don't care if somebody they know sees them going in. At the moment it has to be a consideration of anyone setting up in practice to think about whether the 'shop front' will deter potential clients from attending. I myself run my practice from a room within an established business offering health benefits such as osteopathy, chiropody and herbal medicine. Nobody cares if they're seen going to the osteopath. But a lot of people would cringe at the idea of being spotted going to a counsellor for their weekly sessions.

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