“When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak.”
~Audre Lorde

Counseling can be helpful in a number of different ways. First, processing and healing from past trauma or hurt can help you grow from these experiences and move forward with your life.

It may help to think of this in a different way. Let’s say you sprain your ankle. Eventually, even if you received no medical attention, the bruising would disappear, the swelling would go down and the pain would lessen or go away all together. But even a year or more after the initial injury you might notice that you can’t play basketball anymore, and that your ankle hurts when you move it a certain way or on cold days.  You may also notice that the ankle feels weaker than before the injury, it just doesn’t feel or work the same as it did before.

Our emotions work much the same way as our physical bodies. Grief, trauma, pain, sadness, betrayal, loss, etc. all leave marks on us. Ignoring these emotions (and the painful memories that go with them) can give us the illusion that we’re “doing fine,” but like the sprained ankle, you may find that you’re just not the same as you were before.

Perhaps you have trouble with relationships,  nightmares, chronic headaches with no known medical cause, or frequent crying spells. Or maybe you just don’t feel like yourself.     

When we ignore our emotions, we can start to feel “stuck” in our pain. When we can look honestly at these emotions, give them words and process them, we can, in a sense, set the painful feelings free, so that we can move forward.

Back to the sprained ankle metaphor: let’s say you decide to see a physical therapist for that ankle. You may find that with time, effort and attention, you might be able to strengthen and heal your ankle so that you could eventually play basketball again. 

Ask yourself this: is there anything in your past that’s keeping you from living your present life to the fullest? Emotional wounds, much like physical ones, need attention if they are to heal fully.

Now, you may be saying: “but I had a fairly happy childhood, and I don’t have any past trauma, how can counseling benefit me?” Another one of the ways in which therapy can be beneficial is when you’re feeling stuck, lost, or lacking direction or motivation.

Sometimes it can help to share your thoughts and feelings with an impartial person. I’m always amazed at how the simple act of listening to someone can be so powerful. It’s also powerful to have our feelings validated, which I believe most people don’t experience in their everyday interactions.

Lastly, there are a wide range of issues that fall in between the two areas mentioned above. Sometimes, for a variety of reasons, people live with low self-esteem, general sadness, anxiety, or difficulty starting or maintaining relationships with others.

Others have chronic physical complaints (such as headaches, palpitations, shortness of breath, digestion problems, etc.) that have been tested by doctors and don’t seem to have a medical basis.

And often, couples come to a point  where they need help with communication or with navigating a change in the relationship (such as becoming parents, one partner losing a job, or beginning to question their sexual orientation). 

Counseling  can be beneficial in each of these situations.