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The Goal of Counseling.

A comment on a friend's story led me to write about what counseling did for me. This was my personal experience with my therapist and what I learned from her guidance. 

My  therapist was recommended to me by my family doctor and we were a great match from the start but I had to find my footing with her first.  I was angry at the time and having terrible nightmares of being chased to the point that I feared falling asleep. I thought I was going crazy and in desperation asked for help. I remember walking into my therapists office and looking for a couch to lie down on. Her office was so pleasant and I took a seat in a comfortable chair and looked at this woman who would help me find myself. She was tall and slender with a kind face. Quite an attractive woman. I noticed family pictures and a shelf of books concerning therapy and life situations. Not so bad I decided. No bars on the windows. Just a welcoming space. I also noticed a box of tissues within my reach and wondered about why this was there? I found out. Over the time that I spent with this lovely lady, I must have used box after box because releasing my inner demons was sometimes very emotional.

Then she introduced herself and asked me why I was there? "Because of these damn nightmares! Because I am so angry and I don't know why? Because I have all of this crap in my head and I want to get it out of there!". She said that was alright and then took down some history. Family and any health issues so this first session was more of an intake as to  who I was. She kept writing and I was sure that she thought I was a hopeless case.

I saw her once a week for a time. There were days I dreaded walking through that door because a lot was being stirred up inside of me. It was hard facing the demons that had brought me so low but I persisted. Mental and emotional walls started tumbling down and I cried and railed at the hurt and pain but through this, I started discovering why I felt like such a victim. So powerless. So fearful.

I came to realize that my family circle was chocked full of abuse. Mental. Physical. Sexual. Verbal. Alcoholism and suicidal tendencies, some of which were carried out. I actually thought my life was normal for I had no knowledge of any other to compare it to. No wonder I sometimes feared for my sanity. No wonder I felt comfort in seeking out life partners that reflected what I thought was normal and no wonder this finally drove me to seek counseling.

My therapist was my guide and she did this slowly at a pace that I was comfortable with. Her goal was to help me figure out why I reacted to things in my life and how to make my life better for myself. I learned ways to reach my goal. For example: I thought friendships were all the same and she taught me to look at each one on a scale of one to ten. One being a casual relationship with a kind person at the market that I saw every week and exchanged pleasantries with to ten being the friendships of my heart. The people that would be there for me no matter what I was going through. Perspective. I learned perspective.

Another thing that I learned was to consider myself as the hub of a wheel. If I was centered and rounded than all of the spokes of my life wheel would be in balance. When I had rough emotional edges then my life wheel functioned but not in a smooth way. And all of the people around me felt the effect of this unbalanced life wheel.

One thing she taught me was very compelling and I still practice this one at times. Draw a circle on a piece of paper and divide this circle into sections as to what elements are important to me. My life circle. My largest section was love. I have always wanted to love and be loved. Respect was a large section of my circle. Without respect for myself and being respected, my life was not being filled in a good way. Laughter. Another large piece of my circle. Being sexually alive and fulfilled in this way. Also a huge element for me. Family. Friends. My artwork and creativity. Nature and animals. Financial stability. Good health. Being a positive impact on others. Kindness. Generous of spirit. Knowledge for I love learning. Writing and reading books. Gardening for I love taking care of the earth and growing flowers.

This exercise gave me time to think on what I am as a human being. The biggest thing I learned out of this exercise is what to seek in a life partner and also friendships. Their  life circles should also reflect the elements in it that are most important to me. Not all have to be alike but the majority should match up with mine. Doing my life circle really opened up my eyes to who I truly am. I encourage anyone to try this and this will change over time as we find ourselves growing as people but the core of my first life circle is pretty much the same. Just minor changes over the years.

I was in counseling off and on for a lot of years. Major life changes would get me back for a tune up of sorts. The death of my mother was a big one to deal with. Problems with my children. My answers were always within myself. At times I just needed to talk them out with a person I totally trusted.

My therapist retired and now we are personal friends. This boundary could not be crossed as long as she was my therapist and we respected this. Last year I stayed with her for a time while her son and husband were away biking across the lower states and we shared a great visit. She told me that she considers me to be one of her greatest success stories. That most women with my background usually end up on drugs or alcoholics or prostitutes. Even suicides but that I had such great strength and drive to become better that I had avoided those pitfalls. That was so reaffirming to hear.

The goal of counseling is to help each one of us find our own happiness. To deal with situations in a positive way. To learn to trust in emotions and also how to change our reactions to life situations. We are not helpless beings swept along in the tides of life. We can change our directions. We can change our reactions. We can change our future paths in life. Counseling gave me back my power. Counseling helped me to respect myself for the first time in my life and I will never go back to being a victim ever again.

 

dartist dartist 56-60, F 36 Responses Aug 17, 2009

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Thanks for sharing the idea of the "life circle". I too am on a path to find *my* truth and clearly see the importance of good counselling. I hope I am lucky with that. All the best to you!

I created a bit of a firestorm here by writing this and that was not my intent. I do feel sad for misunderstandings that arose from this. I am no expert in life by any means. Try to do my best and sort out my life. <br />
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If this story helped anyone then I feel good about this. Like everyone, I am just trying to get by the best that I know how. Peace,D.

Thank you for posting this story.

while i do know some people whose lives have benefited from counseling, i do know plenty of others who--like those in the stories tulick mentions--were harmed much more than helped by it.<br />
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the point is, it may work for some, but certainly not everyone. too often we only hear about the pros, but the cons tend to be swept under the rug. they should be brought to the forefront as well, because they are, after all, a very honest reality.<br />
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i'm not interested in disrespecting anyone, but for those who comment on tulick's "anger"--given the negative outcomes mentioned above, it's certainly not misplaced anger, is it?

guys, i'm no expert when it comes to therapy and all that stuff. but i see that there's no point in talking about it. nobody wants to meet halfway.<br />
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we got your point, tulick. and you too, dartist. let's just accept each other's opinion.

and where did you get the idea this was about respct because i think your cousellor brainwashed you and said so and i wasn't supposed to say that because its disrespectful <br />
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i didn't saay it to dissrespect you i said it to save them the reders who will read your story and think they should try counselling <br />
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everyone here harps on my anger- where's yours when you heaar those kind of examples ????

I just got back home and a good friend told me about these comments that have been posted over the past few days. I am not going to get drawn into or feel any sense of anger at what one person commented on here. <br />
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I do appreciate those of you who can see what point I made for myself. It serves no purpose for me to react in an angry way to a person's opinion. Rather I feel empathy and compassion. However I now feel that my point has been lost to a person filled with rage and anger and this stems from a place that only she knows. <br />
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Tulick I do feel empathy for you. I also feel empathy for those who therapy has damaged. The counselor who made this poor woman go through all of the demeaning things she was dealt in her life was given a great disservice. This is a travesty and I also am upset that anyone would make a woman or man relive such awful things. People that damage those seeking help can be held accountable legally. My therapist never forced me to relive anything. It was my choice to open this door and it helped me. <br />
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After reading what tulick wrote, I feel blessed that my counselor was a compassionate and loving woman. I had a good experience that changed my life in a positive way. All her comments do is reinforce my feelings in competent counselors. <br />
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I realize that tulick and I will not come to a meeting of the minds about counseling but I did hope that she would give me respect for finding what has worked in my life. I now know that this respect is a dead issue between us. <br />
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Tulick I feel that you have closed a door between yourself and myself and this is your right. I still offer to you my understanding and support as a fellow human being. I am sad that you are so angry and I know that you have a lot of hurt inside of you. I can do nothing about this. <br />
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Through all that you have written here, I still care about you. My years of living life have given me self awareness. I do not want to change your mind. You have a right to your feelings. I do not believe that you and I can ever come to some meeting of the minds. <br />
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What I feel sad about concerning you and myself is that I could have been a good friend to you. No matter what you write or how you feel about me, I will think of you as a woman who is closing a door to a person with wisdom and compassion. You give me no respect. That is your loss tulick. I do have my boundaries.

RRK1- shop around i bring up thaat kind of incopotence and all you got is shop around <br />
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we'll put aside the cases of this is the only couselor that takes medicade or is payed for via other agencies i work with or this is the only one that takes my insurance or treats my diagnosis <br />
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lets staart with people who need help have neither the energy the wherewithall or the knowledge to shop around <br />
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to say nothing of with as mnipulative and subtle as they are the patient is in too deep before thdey realize whats happening they've been lead to belive the worst either about themselves or their mental health <br />
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they've vommited up their worst experiences and opened something you can't close <br />
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or told this is what you must do to get better how else do you think that poor womaan was cohersed into acting out those sexual things <br />
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shrinks are sharks and their prey is told to walk right through the door these people are fadgile and vulnerable to all sorts of things one being suggestion <br />
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but shop around... <br />
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YEAH RIGHT

there are absolute truths none of which apply here <br />
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i see plenty of stories about the "good" to be had in therapy- its just i see far more of the bad and sometimes the why and the what that makes them so carries more weight than 1000 good stories and positive outcomes <br />
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it was NEVER about changing any of your minds but changing the minds of reaaders cationing them that therapy is not the picture painted here <br />
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and to remind or inform the author of this story- do you know how much lancing wounds hurts or a better likness treating burns <br />
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only unlike the above physical medical issues therapy is not about saving life or limb its about prolonged torment insult to origanal injury to little end <br />
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it offten does not preserve sanity it destroys it

Well, like most researchers if you have an idea of the outcome you expect, your results will reflect your expectations. <br />
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The reason you read more horror stories than success stories is that those with horror stories need to purge themselves of the horror. Those with success stories usually don't feel the need to tell everyone their stories.<br />
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I think Dartist wanted to share her story to let people know that for her, therapy worked. Those of us who have had personal experience in this arena just wanted to show our support and add pertinent comments. <br />
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We have our truth and you have yours. <br />
<br />
Remember, there is no such thing as absolute truth.

read my stroy in i wtk do you need therapy <br />
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where did i get 95% oh just an educated guess of how many horror stories i read vs. good ones <br />
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and you guys are the 5% actually more like the 1%

"...why is everyone's anger directed at me..."<br />
<br />
This thread is actually one of the least angry on EP. Every single reply to tulick thus far has been positive and non-judgemental. <br />
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Sometimes, as RRK1 says, "You're not going to change our minds and obviously we're not going to change yours"

I am not angry with you Tulik. I just think that your anger is making some of your statements irrational. For example, "95% of the time you get the horror story not the happy ending". Where did you find that figure? If you check the web, the lowest success rate I've seen is 50%. <br />
Do you just want to pick a fight with someone? <br />
You're not going to change our minds and obviously we're not going to change yours. <br />
I guess those of us on this storyline are part of that 5% in your calculations who have had good, successful experiences.

Tulick<br />
<br />
Have you written a story yet about your discomfort over therapy? I think it might help everyone here if you set out your thoughts in this fashion. Then we can see your opinions on counselling, rather than just an angry reaction to others posting their experiences here.<br />
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Therapy does not turn people into pacifists. Therapy helps the angry to find peace; shows the sad how to be happy; points out a direction to the lost. Therapy can take the place of drugs; show the alcohol dependent how to live without a crutch; pick up the fallen and put them back on their feet. <br />
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Live your life respected; meet your maker regretted. If you find yourself off your true path, contemplate on the best way to return. If someone points out to you the way back, don't just dismiss them as an unknowing fool.

i have plenty of respect for self and for others but i will not sit idly by and let this just sit here for poor unsuspecting people to read and thik ooh maybe i should try therapy and find themselves in the lions den <br />
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and what is it with everyone whose having a fit over my anger did therapy turn you all into pasifists where is anoyone commenting on this stories anger but mine anger at hearing the stuff i bring up anger that 95% of the time you get the horror story not the happy ending <br />
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why is everyone's anger directed at me for trying to save a few minds and possibly aa couple of lives?????????????

Tulik, you are entitled to your feelings. <br />
<br />
However, not everyone who goes to therapy has had a negative experience. <br />
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Those horror stories are true. No one denies them. The people who perpetrated them on these troubled souls deserve punishment of some sort. It would be more positive for yourself and for them to find out who these monsters are and begin legal proceedings against them. <br />
<br />
That said, ranting against those people who have had positive experiences in therapy will not help those who are looking for help. Do you want to deny help to people who could benefit? <br />
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As I've posted before a person looking for help must shop around. If the therapist is doing something that feels wrong, then leave. I don't deny it is hard to find the strength to leave when you have these issues. However, if you can't leave during the session, you can decide not to return and then look for someone else. <br />
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As to misdiagnoses, they happen every day in every field, not just mental health. If you don't agree with a diagnosis by a therapist, a doctor, whoever, you have the right to go for a second or a third or how ever many opinions.<br />
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I'm probably wrong, but I think your anger may be fuelled by injustice. As much as injustice enrages me, I have come to the conclusion that I can only do my part in my circle. Hopefully, from there, the desire for justice will grow. However, it is always best to temper one's remarks with logic in order to be acknowledged. <br />
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Your remark about respect troubles me, because it is usually the lack of respect that causes many of our problems. Abuse in all its varied forms comes from one person not respecting another. So, in my opinion, if you really want to make changes, start respecting yourself and others.

and what is so rude and insulting the truth- you all are hsndiing out a ringin idoresement for couseling and what happens to the people who read thiis and decide to give it a try <br />
<br />
then get some variation of the horror stories i decribed what about that ??????????

Tulick, you make me feel very sad for you. Are you aware of just how intense your anger is? You are incredibly angry with all of us who find a benefit in counselling and you dont know us.<br />
<br />
You have never actually had counselling yourself, from what I can tell . .? Is that correct? Yet you are determined that counselling is somehow "wrong" for others as well as yourself.<br />
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None of us is telling you that YOU should have counselling - we are just saying we found it useful. Why is that SO hard for you to hear?<br />
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I have a mental illness. I have been in a psychiatric hospital. I have spent a lot of years on medication. I have spent a lot of time in counselling. My experience is valid for me. I have had experience with these things so I know what I'm talking about. And I am ONLY saying what I found helpful for me . . .<br />
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I am not telling you to do something you don't wish to do. Neither am I criticising you or being rude to you. Nor are the other posters on this forum.<br />
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Yet you seem to feel that it is OK to be rude and insulting - how do you come to this conclusion? What makes you feel it is "all right" to behave like this when you do not agree with someone?<br />
<br />
Please think about how much your anger must be hurting you - and hurting your relationships with others. It cannot be good for anyone to be as full of anger as you seem to be.

i see just fine thanks <br />
<br />
i see brainwashed people

"There are none so blind as those who will not see. The most deluded people are those who choose to ignore what they already know."<br />
<br />
I, for one, found Dartists story to be uplifting and enlightening. It struck a chord with my own experiences, and spoke to me in a positive way. It reminds me that self respect and regard for others is so very important; when you begin to lose this, your life becomes unfocused and you become diminished as a person. I regained respect for myself, made some huge life changes and am a better person because of it.<br />
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One thing I regret is not seeking counselling at a much earlier stage in my emotional deterioration. It would have saved me years of turmoil and pain.

the people on EP (where i got these stories) are not trying to sell anything <br />
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find th groups talking about therapy you will find them <br />
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you are trying to get your daughter to go because you likely caan't stand her and for all that i know you are a cadidate for the worst parent of the year award <br />
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and you have no idea that bad things could happen to her as a result of couseling <br />
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pycholog psychitry who cares whic onemany see both becuse they need theraapy aand meds <br />
<br />
read this for how that can turn out <br />
<br />
<a href="http://www.experienceproject.com/uw.php?e=665937" target="ep_blank">http://www.experienceproject.com/uw.php?e...</a><br />
<br />
and i caould give a flying crap about respect because thats not whaat this is about its about keepng anyone else from opning pandoras box and i don't mean their own demonds i mean the shrinks office door in the first place

Tulick.<br />
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The irony is that someone with so much anger and distrust would probably benefit the most from good counselling. I am a new convert to counselling, having gone through a bad time recently and needing to vent to somebody not involved with my situation. My therapist is brilliant; non-judgemental, highly intelligent, caring; all in all a decent person as well as a first class professional. I get answers and validation, come out of therapy feeling hugely better and more positive about life.<br />
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She has not a single answer for me. <br />
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The most she will do is reinforce the positive aspects of our discussions and play down my negative feelings about life. All the answers come from within myself.<br />
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Therapy works. That is my experience. I am going to try and get my daughter to go, because she is having a dreadful time at the moment. Do you honestly think I would do this if I thought it would have a negative impact on her life?<br />
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The instances you quote; I assume you read them somewhere? If so, please be aware that these things are often sensationalised in order to sell more copies. Also, for every one bad experience reported, there are usually a thousand unreported good experiences. Would you make scalpels illegal because one bad surgeon killed a patient under anaesthetic? <br />
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Also, you are confusing psychiatry with psychology; the former deals with organic disease, the latter with the way people think and react to stimuli. There is often an overlap, and this is where it becomes difficult for the professional to determine the most appropriate course of treatment.<br />
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Trampling on a good experience that someone has had. Here we part company profoundly. This is a matter of respect, something you are not showing here, and this reflects very badly upon you. The majority of people on EP are good, loving human beings who deserve every consideration of their feelings. I think this is the only reason you are not being “flamed” into a crisp right now, because they are holding back from attacking your posts out of respect for your view.

what makes me think what i do in short EP stories the highligts of which include one pateint given electoro convusive therapy for depression that leftthem nausated with giant gaps in their memory but they trust their doc completly it should terrfy you that this was done in 2005 not 1955<br />
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the woman who had been the victim of domestic abuse who was convinced by her shrink to act out all the sick sexual things done to her by her partner in the name of therapy<br />
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the teen sent to a pych waard and put in restrains for 26 hours and left to soil themselves who witnessed pysical abuse of other patents <br />
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the rape victim who was denied couseling by one crisis prgram becase they were suicidal <br />
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the not even 20 year old who has been diagnosed with the following disorders depression borderline personality disorder bipolar disorder and multiple personality disorder <br />
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the mutiple insrtences of sexual abuse and rape by multiple people at different times in their life wouldn't have anything to do with their problems <br />
<br />
neither would living under the same roof as one of the family members resposible for the abuse bewcause they need a place to sleep <br />
<br />
how about the ongoing mental and emotional abuse<br />
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they don't have all of those disorders they need to get away from all that **** <br />
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and my abosolute favorite the college kid who had a team of doctors who used some stupid test to dianose thm with not one not 2 but 12 disorders <br />
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who after participating a short time in this group therapy prgram was suicidal for the first time in a long time therapy which aggrivated their bingng and purging then they were supended from said program without support after aa suicide aattemt <br />
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and i resent the fact that you think a decade worth or living somehow makes a difference in instinct- insticts that rightly told me shrinks cannot be trusted <br />
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and no it wasn't my inner demonds it was instict knowing the detrement to me if i let these people in my head so they never got there <br />
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i also disagree with the person who says i don't i don't have a right to trample someones positive experience- the hell i don't when they put it out for the public to see <br />
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the hell i don;t in the name of one thing saving another human being from the emotional and psycholofgical torture rack we call therapy <br />
<br />
the hell i don't- because someone has to

Perhaps the dread that Tulick felt was the fact that she had to admit to what had happened in her life. It is hard to open up and face your own demons, especially with a stranger who keeps asking those damned questions that keep bringing up more stuff! <br />
<br />
If you are lucky enough to get a good counsellor and it doesn't only have to be a psychiatrist, but can also be a psychologist or social worker, he/she understands your fears and lets you work through things at your own pace. <br />
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I was lucky to get a social worker many years ago who was only supposed to counsel me for 6 - 8 weeks. She thought I was making such progress that it turned into 5 years. I stopped because there were some things in my past that I just couldn't delve into with another person. <br />
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Then again. I had a bad experience with someone who counselled my daughter. It ruined our relationship for several years. <br />
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Thank heavens we have been able to put a lot behind us and are working things out now. <br />
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No, not every counselling experience is necessarily good, but if you want it to work, you keep looking for the person who will help you. You don't have to stay with someone just because you went to them first. If he/she doesn't make you feel comfortable or right, you go elsewhere. <br />
<br />
All in all, though, I feel professional counselling is as good as you want to make it and suggest it to many people who I believe would benefit from it.

Perhaps the dread that Tulick felt was the fact that she had to admit to what had happened in her life. It is hard to open up and face your own demons, especially with a stranger who keeps asking those damned questions that keep bringing up more stuff! <br />
<br />
If you are lucky enough to get a good counsellor and it doesn't only have to be a psychiatrist, but can also be a psychologist or social worker, he/she understands your fears and lets you work through things at your own pace. <br />
<br />
I was lucky to get a social worker many years ago who was only supposed to counsel me for 6 - 8 weeks. She thought I was making such progress that it turned into 5 years. I stopped because there were some things in my past that I just couldn't delve into with another person. <br />
<br />
Then again. I had a bad experience with someone who counselled my daughter. It ruined our relationship for several years. <br />
<br />
Thank heavens we have been able to put a lot behind us and are working things out now. <br />
<br />
No, not every counselling experience is necessarily good, but if you want it to work, you keep looking for the person who will help you. You don't have to stay with someone just because you went to them first. If he/she doesn't make you feel comfortable or right, you go elsewhere. <br />
<br />
All in all, though, I feel professional counselling is as good as you want to make it and suggest it to many people who I believe would benefit from it.

Tulick, I also would like to know what caused this strong reaction in you? I remember being a bit fearful but my reaction was definitely not as strong as yours has been. <br />
<br />
I started counseling in my late thirties so I was much older than you are. Maybe the years between my abuse and when I sought answers as to my negative dreams and anger makes a difference? I do know that I was ready to finally open up to someone what I had buried deep inside for so many years. <br />
<br />
I had a lot of life experiences by that time. Was pretty good at feeling out those that I could trust. Had studied psychology in college and found myself desiring to make a big change in how I felt about my life. I needed to make life changes and went through the pain to do so. For me it was worth it. <br />
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Tulick, I am not trying to make you a convert here but I do want to understand why you feel the way that you do about this? It is a matter of respect for your feelings. Thank you for respecting me enough to comment again. I look forward to hearing more from you. Peace, D.

Good grief Tulick! Either you have seen some extremely bad counsellors or your own issues are so confronting it is impossible for you to even consider looking at them . . . ?<br />
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I am intrigued to know HOW counselling (done properly) could possibly "destroy" someone?? <br />
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I agree with Dartist - you are entitled to your opinion, but that does not give you the right to put down the positive experiences of others.<br />
<br />
Why don't you share with us what caused you to come to yourconclusions? Hairs rising on the back of your neck as you enter a counsellor's office doesn't really explain anything . . . .

why do i feel the way i do- simple i have seen peoople destoyed by what you champoion <br />
<br />
on thr rare occasions i have walked into a couselors office all of my intincts screamed danger something that has never happened in any other place in my life even when it should have <br />
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and like i said read the stories in the groups surrounding therapy look at the stories that are bad and why<br />
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the answer for the peopple with such severe emtional scars in simple LEAVE IT ALONE

Tulick, I respect your opinion as this is your right to have it but devaluing my and others positive experiences does us a disservice. <br />
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I never said that this was the only way to deal with things. Please do not put a spin on my story by your perceptions of what you think I might have inferred. For me counseling was a valuable tool and I am not brainwashed by any means. Point of fact is that without counseling I would react in an angry way as to what you commented on here. My anger about life is gone and for me, this is a positive result. <br />
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There are people who have such severe emotional scars that opening up these hurts are too painful to deal with and I do not have answers for them. I wish I did but I can only write about what I have experienced. <br />
<br />
I would like to know why you feel this way and having a dialogue about this would help me to see your viewpoint. It seems that your life has been strongly affected in some way by my story. <br />
<br />
I agree that this was a painful process at times. I was a victim of a lot of abuse of all kinds as a child and it made me feel angry and helpless. The people that I looked to for a feeling of safety as a little girl did not do a very good job at times but this was all that they knew. I wanted to break this cycle of abuse with my own children. I also wanted to have forgiveness in my heart towards those who hurt me and now I do. <br />
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I also put a lot of hard work into this and no one can diminish what has worked for me. I will read other stories about the effects of others peoples experiences with counseling and thank you for pointing this out to me. What has worked for me might not work for everyone and I understand this tulick. We have the right to disagree but I stand by what I wrote for me and the many others whose lives were changed in a positive way by counseling. Peace, D.

"I think of this is as scabs covering up old wounds but the source of the infection is still underneath the surface. We adapt to living with these infections of the spirit but are never fully healed. Lancing these old wounds hurts but some amount of pain is necessary to move on in life."<br />
<br />
OMG- fo you hear yourself- the world has another couselling brainwashee<br />
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do you kow how many people who end up commiting suicide when couselors druge things up and i know you are down playing the dred of walking into that office <br />
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it aalso sends the quite franky dangerous message that the only way to deal with things is a shink <br />
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you should read some of the stories in this group and others dealing with therapy if you think thats true