3 Steps to Getting Yourself to Counselling

by Myriame Lyons

With 1 in 5 Canadians experiencing a mental health problem or illness in their lifetime, it is known that many more are indirectly affected². Family members and friends who care for a loved one struggling with a mental health problem can experience their own distress. Whether you are feeling worried about your loved one’s future wellbeing, or living with their daily emotional outburst, or supporting them at a distance, mental health problems can affect us all. As more and more people face mental health problems, counselling services are sprouting everywhere. And yet, very few of us actually make it to our first counselling appointment. 

If you’ve gotten curious about counselling, you probably have heard of “the mental health stigma”. Even today, after all these years of progress, stigma still exists around mental health problems AND around seeking support. It’s no surprise then why it can still be difficult to access counselling services. Let’s go over 5 steps that will help you get there…

Step 1: Know that it’s okay not to be okay

Social media is notorious for glorifying our “best selves”. It doesn’t really support all those in-between moments when you’re feeling bored, tired, down. Nor does it showcase your angry and frustrated moments. Really most of what is depicted are the “ups” in life, not the “downs”. And really that’s fine (and for now I’ll keep my thoughts about social media use for another post). So as you choose your next smiley pic for your next post, know that it’s okay not to feel happy, for instance. It’s okay not to be okay. It’s okay to feel down and not want to showcase it to the world. Emotions are private experiences, and until you feel up to talking about it it’s okay to fake it for a bit (keywords “a bit”).   

Step 2: Give yourself some time to feel

Actually it often feels easier to push emotions away. You might stuff them down, ignore them until they are far far away. The reality is that ignoring your emotions can makes you feel worst in the long run. As you shutdown the sadness of being dumped or the anger of an unfair work situation, these emotions continue to live inside your body. They stew and eventually blow up. You get numb and stop feeling any emotions, or get irritable and lash out at a colleague. So give yourself some time to feel. One way to be with your emotions is to ask: “Where in my body am I feeling physical sensations?”. Once you pinpoint these sensations (maybe in your chest or neck, for instance) then ask: “Is there anger there? Is it sadness? Disgust? Excitement? Joy? Fear?“. After you connect your physical sensations to one (or more) of the 7 core emotions, say to yourself: “Ah, I am feeling [angry, sad, disgusted, excited, happy, scared, sexually excited]”.  Then pause, breathe and calm yourself for a few seconds.³ 

Step 3: Tell yourself you have nothing to lose & book an appointment

Once you’ve calmed yourself after feeling your emotions in your body, start noticing how different you might feel. If you’ve noticed a shift in your mood or energy, note that the space you created for yourself is healing. If you didn’t notice anything, don’t worry; It can take many tries before noticing anything different. 

Booking a  appointment with a counsellor can help you safely move through your emotions. In counselling, you work with a counsellor to explore the physical sensations of your past/current experiences, connect them with one (or more) of the 7 core emotions, and start to healing in a safe and judgment-free space. Counselling is a relational process to facilitate human change. Counselling addresses wellness, relationships, personal growth, career development, and mental health problems or issues.¹ 

As your counselling appointment approaches, it’s normal to feel nervous. Pause, breathe. Remind yourself why you are here. Most of you have thought about booking or have booked a counselling appointment because you want to start feeling better. Know that you have the courage to change! Stay with your momentum of change and book a counselling appointment with one of Local Health’s counsellors

Myriame Lyons is a Registered Clinical Counsellor and offers appointments at Local Health Integrative Clinic on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Click here to book an appointment with Myriame.