Every so often, I hear things like: “Sure I’ve got some things bothering me. I’d like someone to talk them through with, but I don’t want people thinking I’m crazy! Or, “I told my wife that we need to see a counselor, but she said she’s not going to see some shrink!” Both those statements are sad commentaries on the “bum rap” we often give mental health services in this country. Our opinions are usually based more on misunderstanding or lack of experience than any real knowledge of what counseling is all about.
I want to do a little to remedy that by talking briefly about mental health services and how they can be of help to us. There’s not a one of us that can handle all our life all of the time. If we think about it, we are constantly reaching out to other people for help. If my car is on the fritz and I can’t handle it, I take it to a mechanic. If I have a legal question I can’t answer, I call a lawyer friend of mine. When I had a pain in my knee the other day, I talked to my physician. The fact is, there is no way any of us can know enough to handle everything that life throws our way. Some of us pretend we can, and often mess things up for ourselves and those around us just because we won’t ask for help.
As we grow and develop as people, we are bound to have some tough times. Some of it may center on what we think, some on how we feel, and some on what we want to do. We live in a world of people, and our relationships can also get messed up on occasion. Life challenges us and we are always growing, developing and relating. We never become so proficient at living that we are without some sort of “growing pains.” Fortunately, most of the time we can work through tough times on our own, or with the help of friends and family. All of us do get stuck sometimes, though, and we just aren’t able to pull things together. When those times come, it seems to make sense to get a little extra help. That’s not easy to do. All of us need to be independent and self-sufficient – to “know it all.” But we don’t, and will only make thing worse by pretending that we do.
Mental health professionals are trained to help us in our growth and development when we find ourselves stuck. It’s that simple. There are number of specializations (psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical social worker, marriage and family therapists, pastoral counselors, etc.), and there are a variety of theoretical approaches to understanding people. There are even different tools that mental health professionals use; insight, communications training, stress management, behavior modification, psychological tests, and medications, to mention a few. That can be confusing, but it’s also good. Each of us has different needs. Different mental health services are designed to meet those needs (just like some auto mechanics work with transmissions, some with brakes, and some are generalists).