Most people consider therapy and counselling at one point in their lives. However, not many take the steps to get the help they need. One of the biggest fears people face when deciding to go to counselling is the fear of being judged by the counsellor. After all, the therapist is still a person who will get to know you and may make judgments on your choices. As a counsellor, I am very aware of this and take every opportunity to let my clients know that as part of my approach therapy must be non-judgemental. It is an elementary concept without which therapy doesn’t work. So my job is not to judge, but to guide and assist you in finding your way and the best answers for you.
We live in a judgemental world, people have opinions about every subject and can be passionate about all sort of topics. It is possible you’ve had the experience of confiding in a good friend only to receive unwanted advice or in some times, criticism.
The hard part is opening up
It is in those times (when we meet criticism from a friend) that we may consider taking counselling, however, for whichever reason we stop ourselves and decide to put it until things are really bad or simply choose not to. Fear of criticism becomes very real when we think about opening up to a person that we hardly know, especially if those thoughts and feelings may be things we have never told anyone else.
This is why sometimes people come into counselling and takes them time to truly open up. It is difficult to share our most vulnerable information. As trust is built over time, being open and transparent becomes easier as more sessions go by.
Common concerns and fears
Frequently I tell my clients that as a counsellor I’ve heard and seen many things, that is why not very much surprises me anymore. But funny enough, people sometimes feel what is in their minds is a very big deal, but to others it is not as consequential or as bad. Talking things out allows you to figure this out and it is common that a big fear or guilt turns into a smaller and more manageable issue after openly talking about it in counselling.
The following are things that people fear others will judge them harshly for:
- Frequent parenting feelings like “not liking being a parent”, “not wanting to have children”, “feeling like a bad parent”, “not liking your children”, etc.
- In abuse situations being either the survivor of abuse or the perpetrator of said abuse
- Having put a child for adoption
- Occupations, past or current, particularly those in the sex-trades or that have a low status in society
- Suffering from poverty, going through unemployment or underemployment (much more frequent this times than people believe)
- Having served time in jail or committed crimes
- Being aware of having a current criminal behaviour like shoplifting or fraud
- Compulsive behaviours like “sex-addition”, gambling or eating disorders
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Race, sexuality, gender
- Having suicidal thoughts or self-harming behaviour
- Cultural norms
- Difficulty adapting after immigration
- Alternative lifestyles
- Difficulty controlling your temperament; outbursts of anger
This is a long list, but by no means covers all possibilities. I have seen these situations and many more and hardly feel surprised or judgmental about any of them.
But do counsellors judge?
It is possible you feel a lot of fear that your counsellor will pass judgment on you, but the question remains, will they? The ideal answer is no. Around the 1950s, a very influential psychologist, Carl Rogers, introduced the concept of “unconditional positive regard” by which the therapist keeps the client’s actions separate from the person and believes that all people have the internal resources for personal growth. What this means is that the therapist accepts the person as is, without judgement (unconditionally).
However, you may still wonder if the therapist judges. The reality is that therapists are persons themselves and do judge, although it is not the counsellor’s “right” to do so. The difference however, is that the therapist recognizes when the judgement is rising in their minds and must not act on it (during or after the sessions to the person or to anyone else). The therapist’s willingness to not put too much value in their own judgements is also key. We must understand that judgements are thoughts, not facts, and cause emotional stress when adhered to in a strict way. When judgement is interfering with the therapist’s ability to do counselling, then the therapist is obligated to refer the patient to someone else.
The counsellor’s insight (self-knowledge and self-reflection) is very important. Whenever I realize something in my past or feelings is affecting my counselling, I refer my client to another therapist who would be better prepared to counsel impartially and compassionately.
Can judgement be actually good?
Not all judgement is bad in counselling Guelph. There are situations in which the therapist’s judgement is helpful in counselling. For instance, if someone has recently divorced and is continually calling his/her ex 3 times a day that is a situation in which I would immediately ask the person to stop! This could not only result in legal problems for harassment, it will very likely result in emotional pain and difficulties for all involved.
Can counsellors fear judgement from their clients?
Absolutely yes! There is a small list of things that counsellors may worry being judged about by clients. This is it:
- Too old / irrelevant
- Too young / immature
- Not as experienced professionally
- Undereducated – “You don’t have a PhD?”
- Not being effective as a counsellor
- Too expensive / too cheap
- Not being perfect enough to be a counsellor
- Not open enough / too emotionally open
- Boundaries that are too rigid or too flexible
Not all counsellors have all those concerns, but if they accept at least one of the above, we can say “congratulations, you are human!”
If you have any concerns about how counselling works or wonder if judgement will be an issue in our sessions, please feel free to contact me and ask your questions.