Ending the stigma on counseling

Getting guidance should not be a taboo topic, but rather a norm



If you have ever visited the counseling center on campus, you may have experienced feelings of embarrassment or shame without even knowing why. If not, reflect on how you may have entered the room. Did you stride in confidently or did you try to sneak in unnoticed?

Counseling is a relatively simple, commendable process defined as “advice and support that is given to people to help them deal with problems and make important decisions” and yet thousands of Americans today report that they would never consider seeing a counselor or seeking professional help for their personal problems.

If counseling is such a useful tool that, according to the American Psychological Association, can positively impact an individual or family, then why do so many people shy away from actively pursuing psychological help?

The reasoning behind this seems to be that there is a cultural stigma placed on the idea of seeking counseling, making it out to be something that should not be discussed or confidently put into the open.

Counseling can be an extremely beneficial practice for those who are struggling with work, school, relationships or other personal issues, but society tends to associate counseling with mental disabilities and an inability to function normally.

I believe that having an objective professional listen and interpret our thoughts and feelings can improve both the mental and physical health of almost anyone, something no one should be ashamed to do.

Here at University of San Diego, there are a wide variety of services offered to students in need of counseling or support. Organizations such as The Health Center, Career Services, The Counseling Center, and The Center for Health and Wellness Promotion all offer counseling services for students.

USD freshman Lindsay Fitzpatrick is considering a career in counseling and is currently enrolled in a peer mentoring class.

“I think counseling is a good thing because it gives you an outside opinion and provides students the clarity that is necessary to cope with difficult situations,” Fitzpatrick said.

More people might be willing to attend counseling or other guidance services if society were more accepting of the idea of searching outside ourselves to solve internal issues.

Unfortunately, American culture emphasizes  the   importance of coping as an individual and the idea of every man for himself.

Freshman Amy Maltz speculates on the potential reasons why counseling has such a negative connotation.

“Society trains us to view counseling as an indication that something is wrong with us or with our brains,” Maltz said.

During my senior year of high school, I suffered a personal struggle with severe anxiety. I was able to experience firsthand what it feels like to have to seek professional help for a disorder that many may consider to be petty or insignificant.

While at first I was ashamed and embarrassed to admit to myself and others that I regularly attended counseling, by the end of my treatment I realized that turning to others in a time of need is not a sign of weakness.

In fact, the ability to ask for help when needed is a strength, especially if it means you will have a community of supporters rallying behind you.

Attending counseling on a regular basis has enabled me to work through many of my anxieties and become a stronger, more balanced individual.

I believe that counseling is a wonderful mechanism that provides the perspective and guidance every healthy person needs. If you ever feel like life is too much to handle or you need someone to talk to, I hope you do not hesitate to take advantage of the many counseling services USD has to offer.

These resources are made available to students to empower them to put mental health  as a priority, not as an afterthought or something to be ashamed of.