Aug 312015 4 Responses

Why I’ve Been in Counseling This Year

Five months ago I walked into a small office and after a few seconds of chit-chat heard the question I’ve asked hundreds of times, “So what’s going on?”

While I’ve never hesitated to get emotional help over the last two decades from friends and co-workers, it was my first time to sit with a stranger and discuss what is going on in my life.

From My Office to His

The journey to the counselor’s office began several months earlier. For the fifth time over the past decade I had a minor medical issue which could partially be explained by stress. This time it was a near daily nauseousness.

While there was a physical component which needed to be treated, the symptoms were also an aspect of anxiety. (See: I’m Tired of Being Nice)

It was a sign I was not handling stress properly.

While a scientist would want to identify the exact action which solved the problem, I’m not a scientist. My theory is to throw the kitchen sink at an issue. So I:

  • allowed my doctor to run some tests to rule out more serious issues
  • took some minor medications to deal with the physical aspects of the problem
  • changed what I ate of a morning to get more calories at the beginning of the day
  • upped the amount of exercise I got each week
  • lost weight
  • took actions to get better sleep at night
  • did some organizational restructuring at work

And I sought professional counseling.

Some Professions Should Require Counseling

Every person will experience multiple seasons in life when they would be aided by counseling. Most major transitions–death of a loved one, empty nest, job loss, etc–could be better experienced with help.

Some professions have unique stressors which make counseling more necessary for its practitioners. First responders, helping professions, and military personnel likely need more emotional assistance than others. (See: You Hurt My Feelings)

The pastorate would fall into that category. Since graduate school, I always knew I would seek counseling at the first signs of burnout. So there was no hesitation to make an appointment when I found myself saying, “I’m tired of hurting.”

I Found Counseling Enjoyable

While the idea of counseling frightens some, I found it fun. I regularly point out to others things which are obvious to those around them, but blind to them personally. I found it fascinating to be on the receiving end of this information.

During one visit, my counselor pointed out the obvious: “I’m the only person in your life that you have absolutely no responsibility to help.” I knew his statement to be true, but I needed reminded. As I sat for counseling, I kept trying to assist my counselor. I didn’t even recognize what I was doing. After years in the pastorate, it is just how my mind works. Yet as soon as he said it, I realized I was trying to help the one I was paying to help me.

Five Lessons I Learned from Counseling

During the counseling process, I learned many things. Here are five concepts which were made clear:

  1. Whether we know it or not, life is taking a toll on us.
  2. While we might be able to cope on our own, there is no reason to try.
  3. Never underestimate the value of someone validating what you are feeling.
  4. You are not the exception. If everyone needs help, that includes you.
  5. Emotional health is continually developed.

There are many other personal lessons, but these are some of the general truths which apply to everyone.

Why Am I Telling You This?

Not a week goes by in which I don’t encourage someone to get counseling–a  marriage that is struggling, a teenage girl trying to figure out life, a man going through a difficult time at work–in these situations and a thousand others, I tell someone to call a counselor and work through their issues.

I do so because it works. The success rate isn’t 100%, but it is amazing the effectiveness when a willing client is paired with a good professional. (See: 13 Questions to Gauge If You Need Marital Counseling)

So if you are facing a situation and struggling to get through it on your own, find a counselor. If you live near me, hit the contact button and I can refer you to a friend.

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