The Stigma of Counseling (Article)

Author: Justin McTeer

“I want you to go to counseling.”

I’ll never forget hearing my boss say those words to me over 10 years ago. Those aren’t words you want to hear your boss say, especially when you’re working in ministry. People who work in ministry are supposed to have it all together, right? They are supposed to be the ones counseling…not the ones who need it. RIGHT!?

Thank God for my boss because, WOW, did I need counseling.

Over the last 10 years, I’ve spent who-knows-how-many hours in counseling. It’s fun. Ok, it’s not ALWAYS fun, but I’ve grown to genuinely enjoy it more often than not. It’s nice to have someone help me figure me out, because I haven’t figured me out quite yet. It’s nice to be challenged to think differently, to forgive, to take a stand. It’s nice to know that my problems aren’t as rare and insurmountable as I might think they are. It’s nice to have a path laid out in front of me, with clear steps that lead to discernible progress.

Like I said, thank God for counseling. Without it, I’d probably still be the closet porn-addict I was 10 years ago, consumed by guilt and shame and utterly exhausted from trying so many times to stop and never being able to gain much ground. Without counseling, I wouldn’t have experienced the healing I’ve seen take place in my marriage. Without counseling, I wouldn’t have learned how to set healthy boundaries with people who (often unknowingly) added tremendous, unnecessary stress to my life.

I wonder why I didn’t go sooner? Oh yeah…because only failures go to counseling. It’s for weak people who don’t have enough discipline or faith to get over their problems. Right? Wrong.

Great athletes have great coaches. It’s true. In fact, great athletes are often drawn to great coaches. They want to be coached. As a basketball fan, I used get sucked into the Michael Jordan vs. fill-in-the-blank arguments. A few years back, it was Michael vs. Kobe. That one was tough, because they played so similarly. Michael won six titles with the Bulls. Kobe won five with the Lakers. So it seemed like the right answer was Michael. But maybe the answer was actually Phil Jackson, because he was the coach on each of their respective championship teams. So Michael has six titles, Kobe has five, and Jackson has 11 (not counting the two he won as a player with the Knicks). So maybe it’s Phil? Nah…it’s Michael (it’s always Michael).

But the point remains…great athletes have great coaches. And we don’t fault them for it. We don’t tell them that if they were truly great, they wouldn’t need coaches at all. There is no stigma for athletes, even the best, desiring to be coached.

There is no stigma for people who want to get fit hiring personal trainers. We see that as a sign of taking things seriously.

There is no stigma for people hiring financial advisors. We see them as successful.

But all of that is counseling. Heck, when you take your car to a mechanic…THAT’S counseling.

The stigma for personal counseling/marriage counseling needs to go. It isn’t a sign of failure. It’s a sign of success. It’s a sign of wisdom. Just listen to Scripture. Proverbs 12:15 says, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” Proverbs 11:14 says, “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.” Did you hear that? An ABUNDANCE of counselors.

The negative stigma of counseling almost kept me from experiencing the freedom I so desperately needed in my life. Freedom from addiction. Freedom from fear. Freedom from confusion. I’m so glad I had a boss who made me go.

Great athletes have great coaches.

If you’re in need of wise counsel, seek it out. Email if you’d like us to help connect you with a great counselor.