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Life / Personal

My First Trip to a Counselor

My First Trip to a Counselor

“You know there are people you can talk to about this, right?”

My first instinct was to tell my mother, rather vehemently, that I was NOT crazy. I had a loving family, great friends, and a rock solid Christian faith.

I was also 26, living in a small town with very few local friends, and spending the majority of my time working.  Overworking, really. I was definitely having a bit of a quarter life crisis, and I kept filling my life with more and more things, saying yes to whatever came my way.

I was stressed to the max, and because of that, had no idea what I should DO with my life.  I was offered several opportunities for new work and each would require significant life changes. The stress left me with no tools to make those big decisions.

That’s how I ended up in my first appointment with a counselor.

I was totally skeptical, and I felt embarrassed for allowing myself to believe that I was potentially mentally unstable enough to see a counselor.  That’s what society had taught me to believe—Only crazy people need therapists.

NPR was a staple on my radio, and as I drove to my appointment, it seemed like a stroke of fate when I heard the counselor’s name mentioned on air as a recent donor to the station!  I felt a certain kindship to her as we listened to, and supported, the same station. But, that didn’t stop me from plopping down in her office and saying, “You know, I’m not sure if I believe in this ‘therapy’ thing.”  She assured me that I never had to come back if I didn’t want to!

It took her about 10 minutes to peg me.  As I talked to her about my confusion and overwhelming sense of not knowing what to do, she was hard at work writing on her desk. Was she even listening?

But when I stopped speaking, she handed me her work: a stack of sticky notes each containing the word “no.”  Instead of actually saying “no” to people, which seemed to be a huge struggle for me, I could give myself permission to just hand them a sticky note.  It seemed small and silly, and honestly I don’t think I ever handed one to anyone, but it was exactly what I needed to hear in that moment.

I left her office with a little homework, and a huge shift in mentality.  There was nothing scary that happened in that office, and definitely nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, it was really helpful.

This experience definitely made me wonder why there’s such a stigma surrounding mental health.  Shouldn’t we be encouraging people to be as healthy mentally as we encourage them to be physically?  Is this really less important than having routine bloodwork done, or a healthy BMI? Is there any danger in seeing a counselor—or talking to your doctor when physically you’re healthy, but you just don’t feel right?

“Use Your Resources” has become a bit of a battle cry for me.  I say, let’s end the stigma!

This post reflects the views of the author, and is intended to start a conversation. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

Or, if you’d like to hear some overall thoughts on mental health from Christians at THRED, you can find those over here.

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First and foremost a people person, Rachel is taking her gift of gab and love for conversation and applying it to the THRED community! She loves her two little girls, reading new authors, fancy dinners, and she makes it a goal to laugh hard every day. She does not like having to be brief, or ham on pizza…


  1. Counselors are people who, hopefully, share knowledge people might not otherwise know. You can liken this to medical doctors, legal counselors, etc. Their advice can be good or bad depending on the extent of their knowledge and their understanding of the individual they are counseling and the situations this individual in experiencing.

    The advantage of speaking with a good counselor is that one may be exposed to knowledge they might not receive otherwise. The value received depends on what this knowledge is and whether it is acted upon.

    • YES! To all of this! Also, I think it’s great because the counselor’s job is to listen to you talk about you, the people and experiences that shape you. I’ve found that they sometimes pick up on things and remind me of things that I’m saying out loud but hadn’t connected the dots on my own. For instance, my counselor knew that running was a great stress reliever for me. I’d talked about it multiple times. During a particularly stressful period of time, I was accounting for her all the things that were going on in life. She looked at me and asked, “How is your running going?”

      It was a great reminder that I was stressed, and that I already had tools to deal with that stress, but I wasn’t using them.

      I think for that reason, that it’s a great idea-for me at least-to establish a relationship with a counselor who gets to know me over the course of time. Not only are they helping me think about things in new ways, but they’re also reminding me of the things that I’ve already learned!

      Thanks for taking the time to read this and weigh in on the post!

  2. I am a horseback riding instructor. Many people find the usually peaceful nature of horses helps them relax. Horses can also be very good diagnostic tools for measuring stress.

    An example is a private lesson I had with a woman who had never ridden before. She was nervous and her horse was nervous. I tried various methods to help her relax. Eventually, I suggested she sing softly to the horse. She began to sing “Amazing Grace”. She later told me that singing helped her relax. I said, “Yes, and your relaxing help your horse relax which helped you relax even more.” By the end of the lesson both were so relaxed that she was able to stop the horse without application of the reins. This woman began to call her weekly lessons her relaxation therapy sessions.

    I often use riding to help people understand that they have some control over their own emotions. If their horse becomes nervous, I tell them it is their responsibility to help their horse relax. If they simply demand obedience, tension escalates. If they control their emotions for the sake of the horse, both rider and horse release tension, and the situation improves. I try to help these people understand that this technique can work in other aspects of their lives as well.

    Many of our problems result from focusing on ourselves and what we want. Changing that focus to helping others tends to improve our own lives as well. Changing our focus from ourselves to looking to God is, of course, the most important thing we can do.

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