Journal Through Recovery Entry 02: Counseling?
“Counseling………..do I need counseling? I really think this is a waste of time. What will he tell me about me that I don’t already know?”
These were my thoughts after scheduling my first counseling session. I had seen a counselor before. He really only had what I told him to go on and I only went to humor my wife to keep our marriage together. I was able to manipulate him easily. I didn’t think this would be any different.
My wife’s counselor suggested that my wife make it a requirement of continuing in the marriage that I see a counselor. Not just any counselor. One that worked directly with her in the counseling practice. Someone that I actually knew. He was a nice guy. I had heard him tell his story before to others at the church I used to attend. He had a history in this kind of thing, you know, in admitting to being unfaithful like I am. He shouldn’t be much different than my previous counselor.
By agreeing to see him, I figured this would make me look good. I set up the appointment. On the day of the appointment, I went in his office looking sufficiently contrite and ashamed. He asked me to tell my story, why I was there in my own words. So I did. I told him my story, as much as I was willing to tell. I told him everything that my wife knew and was feeling great about myself. If this was counseling, I had this covered.
When I finished, he just looked at me. And waited. For a long time. An uncomfortably long time. Then he said, “Thank you for telling me that. But there is more, isn’t there?”
So, here I was at a decision point, a crossroads. This was not what I expected, but I had an opportunity. This was a chance for me to unburden and release the junk in my life that I have never let go of before. I was scared and nervous and actually very much wanting to withdraw and isolate. However, I saw sitting across from me someone who had been where I was and didn’t seem to be judging me based upon what he could already see.
So I unburdened. For the first time in my life, I was honest. I started as far back as I could remember and let go of all the things that have weighted me down into despair and shame. I didn’t realize how much shame I had deep in my life. I guess I have been denying the impact that my years of acting out have had on my psyche and especially on my self-worth.
I cried. I don’t know why whether it was from the shame of verbalizing my actions, the relief from unburdening them, or the terror of having just let another person see who and what I was. What surprised me the most was that I didn’t die. The world didn’t end. Lightning didn’t strike me. I just knew one thing for sure, I couldn’t go back to what I was, being hidden. The only question for me now was……..now what??
I’ve Never Been to Counseling Before – 7 Cautions
by Jeff Fisher on September 10, 2013
Recently, I’ve heard several guys and couples mention that they’ve never been to counseling before.
“You know, in our 11 years of marriage, we’ve never been to counseling”
“I was never bad enough to need counseling.”
“God is my counselor, why would I need to pay someone for that?”
Some talk about counseling like it is beneath them, like it is for the “really messed up” people, but never them.
I want to suggest a few things… some hunches for you to ponder.
1. You Probably Have a Pride Issue. If you think you’re somehow better because you’ve never been to counseling, that’s pride… that’s self-righteousness. None of us are better than the other person. All of us have junk but we may be too deceived to see our true condition.
Jesus told a story of a self-righteous person who came to church, sat next to a poor man and prayed, “God, I thank thee that I’m not like that guy!”
2. You Probably Misunderstand the Purpose of Counseling. Counseling is a lot like a private lesson for the musician. You take private lessons to get the skills to excel in your instrument. You need private lessons to learn new techniques or tweak what you’re already working on. But the most valuable private lessons are to help you get through a difficult part you don’t know how to get through.
Much like a private lesson teacher, a counselor has specialized training in areas that trip us up and we are having trouble navigating. A counselor has experience in diagnosing things we don’t know we’re doing.
3. You Probably Have a Stack of Excuses. The more we know we need to make a change, the bigger the list of excuses.
“I can handle it on my own.”
“Counseling is too expensive.”
“I don’t have the time.”
“I’m not that bad.”
“I’ll grow of this.”
“I don’t want anyone telling me what to do.”
“Those counselors are all secular.”
4. You Probably Have a lot of Fears and Insecurities Often we’re afraid of sharing our junk. We’re afraid of what someone might say. We’re afraid of what the counselor might find or tell us to do. We don’t like to be out of control. We don’t want anyone telling us we’re bad. We don’t think anyone would love us if they knew what we were really like. We might feel that God doesn’t truly love us.
Counseling is too painful. It’s easier to keep doing what I’m doing.
5. You Probably Have Lay Counselors in Your Life and Don’t Know it. Counseling is about discipleship. People who are a little farther along in the journey helping us. Men and women who understand more about the soul and healthy relationships than we do.
If you took a risk and talked to some of your friends, pastor, your Sunday School teacher, or some older men in your church you’d probably find some good help. Perhaps you have a good friend that can help. Perhaps someone at work. Maybe one of your golfing or fishing buddies is the person you need to reach out to who can disciple you through.
6. You Probably Are Not Broken Enough. We don’t want to change. We don’t want to do something differently. We like what we’re doing too much. We have trouble seeing our true condition and our horrible sinfulness in God’s site. If you really knew how your heart, mind, and actions looked to God, you would cower away in shame. We don’t call out for help because we are not broken enough over our own sinfulness.
7. You Probably Need to Break the Ice on Counseling. My hunch that you need to break the ice on your first counseling session. It takes a lot of courage, but I think you’ll find a very safe place where you can get some help.
I wrote a post called “Going to a Counselor For the First Time” where I share my fears and presuppositions about counseling that all turned out to be lies. It’s a helpful post.