Public Perception of Counseling and Its Meaning in Society

By: Angelica Beker, LPC-Intern Supervised by Lora Ferguson, LPC-S

By: Angelica Beker, LPC-Intern
Supervised by Lora Ferguson, LPC-S

Do you or someone you know have a negative view of counseling? On the flip side, how many people do you know who have a positive view of counseling? I am guessing the numbers are about half and half. The public perception of counseling is a diverse one and could be due to a number of factors including cultural views, media, age, and experiences – to name a few.

Let’s sort out the different factors one by one.

Cultural views: Each culture certainly has its own views regarding counseling. In some cultures, talk therapy is seen as completely acceptable and almost expected when you have an unbiased individual to listen to your personal concerns. Sometimes, it can be normal to have a therapist, just like it could be to have a personal trainer, doctor, or other common professionals. However, in other cultures, therapy can be seen as a sign of weakness. This can be due to the fact that in some cultures, your personal business stays your personal business. As such, talking to a therapist is not acceptable and you work out your concerns on your own or solely within the home.

Media: As a therapist, I often get very angry with the way that media portrays therapists. Therapists are seen as flowy clothes wearing weirdos, who get personally intertwined with their clients and over-step boundaries (in every which way possible). Too often, movies and TV shows do not show therapists following the ethical practice standards that real-life therapists abide by on a daily basis. As a young adult (putting my title as a therapist aside), I can completely see why media can give therapists are bad representation in that people may not take therapists seriously or trust them with their personal business. They seem like “weird shrinks,” which is not the most inviting to the average human being.

Age: This can certainly be a factor in whether an individual may choose to come to counseling or not. Often times, the trend can be that those of the older generation are less likely to attend counseling, whereas those of the younger generation are more open to the idea. Due to the sensitive nature of counseling, it is understandable that this may be the trend as older generations were raised in a society where personal business was kept personal. On the other hand, the younger generation lives in a time where everyone and anyone can know their personal business, especially with the rise of social media.

Experiences: Some people have been to therapy before. Some have not. Maybe those who have been before had a negative experience, which can understandably negatively shadow their views on counseling. Those who have never been may have no idea what to expect, which can naturally raise anxiety levels and make one less likely to see a therapist due to the uncertainty.

What comes up for you?

Counseling is a very vulnerable experience. It is understandable that counseling may not be for everyone, but it can and has changed lives. Because April is Counseling Awareness Month, I challenge you to take a moment and think about any of the above listed points. Do any of them stand out to you? Do you relate to any? If so, in what way? Counseling may not be for everyone, but open mindedness can be such a positive factor when considering whether you are in need of talking to a helping professional. There are times when having someone listen to us vent can be a very relieving experience! Society can have a big impact on our perceptions, but it is important to take a moment to dig deep and think about what you as an individual are in need of.

Until next time, be well!

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