What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy?
Counsellors are human too
It’s one of my pet peeves when someone says, “You shouldn’t have any problems, you’re a counsellor”. Or, if I make a mistake, I am sometimes told, “Well you should know better because you’re a counsellor”. If only life was that simple. If it was, we could all study and gain a Psychology Degree and the world would be absolutely perfect…not quite.
I may know what to do but I can’t consistently maintain perfect behaviour. Consider this – you may know how to lose weight (eat less carbs, smaller portions, exercise more often and so on) but knowing what to do and following that plan perfectly are two different things. Counsellors are human and we are subject to the same issues everyone else is.
We all feel emotions that are overwhelming at times and we all have our ‘breaking point’. It’s unreasonable to assume that mental health experts have perfect lives. If a counsellor tells you this, let me assure you that they are lying through their teeth. I can certainly cope with more stress now than I could when I was younger. This is partly down to getting older and being more mature but years of counselling have helped me to reframe situations and not trust my thoughts as I used to. I used to believe my thoughts without question whereas now I am fundamentally aware that I perceive the world through my own ‘personal filters’ and that my thoughts are not a direct representation of reality. There is always room for an alternative viewpoint. I don’t always believe what I think.
We all mind read (assume we know what others are thinking without direct evidence) – we go on body language but there is no direct evidence -as in, If I thought: Trudy is being unfriendly, I must have upset her (mind reading), I am assuming without direct evidence: This would be Trudy telling me directly that I have upset her. So unless Trudy has confirmed that I have indeed upset her, I assuming that is the cause of her unfriendliness when there could be many other reasons. If I have the thought “I have upset Trudy” that might lead me to feel sad or anxious, possibly all for nothing.
I digress – counsellors have problems just like everyone else. When there are emotions involved, we don’t always act in our own best interests and that is why we are often much better at dealing with other people’s problems rather than our own.
Emotions tend to remove rational thinking from the equation. People who see counsellors are wise as they help us see our own patterns of thinking and behaviour that we possibly don’t notice in ourselves. Counsellors also have to deal with a lot of negative situations day after day and they get to see the sad stories in life. This can, over time, affect mental health negatively and that is why counsellors are trained to know when they need time out. If they don’t look after themselves they will burn out.
So, don’t expect your counsellor to know everything and have all the answers. This is unreasonable. You can expect your counsellor to treat you with kindness and respect. They will not judge you and will do their best to keep your best interests at heart in an effort to help you become stronger and more confident in your own life.