All Counselors Don’t Suck

“All these factors land many of us in the trap of ‘This counselor (therapist, psychologist, etc) wasn’t helpful, so that means all counselor’s suck.'”


If you’re anything like me, asking for help is hard enough let alone being able to take off our armor long enough to let someone in who may be able to help. Also, many men don’t seem to have the tools necessary to be in touch with our emotions, even simple things like knowing words to explain what we’re feeling. In our society, especially in the military and first responder culture, we see asking for help as a sign of weakness. All these factors land many of us in the trap of “This counselor (therapist, psychologist, etc) wasn’t helpful, so that means all counselor’s suck.” 

We get tired of not knowing how to answer their questions. We could feel stupid because we’re not in touch enough with our emotions. We may struggle to articulate an answer that’s helpful for them to “diagnose” what’s wrong with us.

To top it off we get tired of telling the same story to multiple clinicians because we had to move, or they moved, or for some other reason. For many of us, emotional vulnerability is really uncomfortable and instead of staying and fighting through our emotions, we choose flight. This is especially true if we’re in a relationship with someone who wants us to get help more than we do. If this dynamic is in play, it’s doomed to fail because we have to want to change. If we don’t we’ll never see it through to completion. 

I fell into this trap after the third mental health professional that I saw. My wife had been on me for months about how “I needed to get help” and “she couldn’t take it anymore”; many of you have heard similar things from your loved ones. After the second visit with my new counselor, it was clear they didn’t get it. It just wasn’t going to work so I stopped going.

At this point I bought into the lie that no one could help me and that it was too hard.

This lie held me hostage until almost all the wheels had fallen off because of the damage I had done to my marriage. With a divorce on the near horizon, I was finally ready to fight for my family and find someone that could help me heal. 

The uphill climb out of the valley started by getting connected to a counselor at the local Vet Center. Right from the start I noticed how we had things in common; she was a former Army non-commissioned officer (NCO) and had been deployed to a combat zone. She helped me to set some boundaries like only giving my “off days” so much time so they didn’t consume me, as well as some other helpful tools that helped me heal from combat trauma. This was a springboard to finding another counselor when we moved yet again. This new counselor helped me dig deeper into hurtful things that happened during my childhood. After experiencing enough healing, it helped me get some sobriety under my belt so that I no longer needed to self-medicate with alcohol and pornography.

All this to say there were two things I learned the hard way that would be good to add to your toolbox: (1) don’t wait until it’s too late to take ownership of your own healing and (2) if one counselor doesn’t work out, don’t stop until you find one that does.

Your loved ones can want better things for you till they’re blue in the face but YOU are the only one that can make that a reality.

John Dale is a former REBOOT course leader, military veteran and first responder

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