In Defense of Counseling

A more serious than usual piece I wrote in response to an article in the UNC Mirror.

Read the original editorial here: http://www.uncmirror.com/opinions/editorial-counseling-unnecessary-unproductive-in-self-centered-society-1.2859331

[I only just read this recently. I had to temporarily withdraw from school this last semester & consequently did not pay as much attention to the Mirror, which is unfortunate because they are not printing new editions during summer. But this subject is extremely important to me & I hope they will keep this response in mind for fall semester.]

There was an article in the Mirror recently that was extremely derisive of counseling, and it could unintentionally be very harmful were anyone to take it too seriously. Its claims of counseling being unnecessary and unproductive are broad generalizations. The article demonstrates a lack of understanding of how the counseling process works.

Counseling may not be necessary or productive for everyone, but there are numerous types of counseling for different people. These types include Jungian, Freudian, Adlerian, cognitive-behavioral, person-centered, family systems, existential, feminist approaches and infinite combinations of these styles and others.

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[If this is still your idea of counseling, it’s time to reeducate yourself.]

Counseling is a scientific art and an artistic science. There are general research-based principles that should be applied to all counseling situations, but beyond that there are numerous factors influencing each individual counselor’s practice. Having a bad experience with one counselor is no reason to give up on counseling (or therapy, psychotherapy and psychiatry) entirely.

The article also claims counselors may be too self-centered to care about their clients problems because they are part of our individualistic society. But we are actually a diverse and pluralistic society. It is mostly people who are less self-centered who will pursue and succeed in careers aimed at helping others.

If counselors choose their profession because helping othes improve their lives makes them feel better about themselves, this is technically selfish, but still beneficial to those who receive help.

People with either mild problems or superior coping skills may be successful using the journaling and self-help techniques mentioned in the article. But for those who are not so fortunate, counseling has the potential to be of great use. Self-help can only go so far. Part of helping oneself involves learning to be able to ask others for help.

The overemphasis on individualism and the idea of of facing problems “alone and with dignity” can lead to instances of suicide because people feel they cannot seek help from others.  There is already a stigma in our society around mental illness, counseling and psychotherapy. Please think before espousing oversimplifications that only worsen the situation.

If anyone has any doubts or needs help, please consider visiting a counselor. Those at UNC can check out http://www.unco.edu/counseling/ for more information.

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One thought on “In Defense of Counseling

  1. Marilyn,I am very interested in this topic as well. I have so many fdrneis that are coaches, therapist and group facilitators. I wound enjoy being a part of a discussion on the differences and similarities of practice(and intervention). Other than the obvious DSM4 difference in psychotherapy.peace,William

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