10 Common Myths About Counseling

MYTH #1: Counseling Is Only For People Who Have Serious Emotional Problems

FACT: Seeing a counselor does not mean that you are mentally ill or "crazy". Everyone has difficulties at some point in their lives, being able to ask for help is a sign of maturity, health, and strength. In addition to improving more serious emotional problems, counseling can also help with:

  • life transitions; adjusting to new surroundings
  • difficulty juggling school, work, family, and other responsibilities
  • academic problems, difficulty in test-taking and/or test anxiety
  • struggles with self-esteem, communication, or assertiveness
  • relationship problems

MYTH #2: Seeking Counseling Is a Sign of Weakness

FACT: It takes courage to explore sensitive feelings and painful experiences. Individuals who enter counseling are taking a first step in resolving their difficulties.


MYTH #3: Going to Counseling Means that I'm Out of Control

FACT: Actually, going to counseling is a way of taking control. Talking to a counselor is a great way to actively examine your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in order to make changes to improve your quality of life and the quality of your relationships with others.


MYTH #4: If I Go for Counseling All My Professors Will Hear About It

FACT: The things you discuss with your counselor and the contents of your counseling record are subject to strict legal and ethical standards of confidentiality and privacy. This means that counselors will not release any information, or even the fact that they have met with you, to anyone (including parents, professors, friends, or school administration) without your permission. There are, however, a few limits on confidentiality. These are described in Confidentiality and reviewed during the first appointment.


MYTH #5: The Fact that Ive Gone for Counseling Will Become Part of My Academic Record and/or May Hurt Me in Job, Residency or Graduate School Applications

FACT: Counseling records are kept separately from academic records and are protected by law. As described in Confidentiality, release of any information is permitted only after a student provides written consent, or in certain legal situations involving a subpoena or court order. For medical students: The standard application for the ACGME match does not require you to provide information about physical or mental health treatment or concerns. Please talk to your counselor or advisory dean if you have concerns about this during the application process.


MYTH #6: If I Go to Counseling, They're Just Going to Give Me a Pill

FACT: Medication is not right for everyone. If your counselor thinks that medication may be helpful, s/he will talk to you about seeing a psychiatrist. Meeting with the psychiatrist does not automatically mean that you will be started on medication. Rather, if the psychiatrist believes that medication is appropriate, s/he will discuss the benefits and risks of various medications with you. The ultimate decision is yours and should be a well-informed one.


MYTH #7: The Counselor Cannot Understand Me Unless S/he has Had Similar Experiences or Is of the Same Background

FACT: Individual reactions to the same event or experience can vary widely, but basic human emotions are the same across individuals and cultures. Counselors are trained to be sensitive to and respectful of individual differences, including specific concerns of students with regard to gender, race/ethnicity, religion, age, sexual orientation, and socio-economic status.


MYTH #8: The Counselor Will Tell Me What to Do and How to "Fix" My Problems

FACT: Counseling is not a quick fix cure for your problems. The counselor is there to help you explore your feelings, thoughts, and concerns, to examine your options, and to assist you in achieving the goals you have set.


MYTH #9: Counseling Doesnt Work

FACT: There is a large body of research that suggests that counseling is effective. The counseling process looks different with each counselor, for each problem, and at each point in your life. While it may not have seemed helpful in the past, it may be worth trying again.


MYTH #10: Change Is Simple

FACT: Important changes often take time and energy in order to occur. Counseling may not provide a quick fix to your problems, but it can be a useful part of working toward meaningful and successful life change.


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