Did you learn counseling is a place criminals and crazy people go? That's not an uncommon perception of counseling. You saw images of counseling growing up. Someone laying on a roman style couch. A shrink sits smoking a pipe and writing on a note pad. It's a dark room with curtains drawn. This is the place secrets get exposed and emotionally sick people get better. Right?
A few years back, after 13 years of being a leader my "emotional tank" was empty. I didn't want to lead anyone. I didn't want to be around anyone. I was having a hard time finding the daily motivation to act on any work task. I lost trust in lots of people. Working in full time ministry I assumed my calling had run out, it must be time to go find a different job. I heard about peers going to see a counselor but I was certain I didn't need to see one, I was just burnt out on leading and my job.
But I was wrong.
Knowing that my work benefits included some counseling I decided to search the insurance network for a nearby counselor. There just happened to be a counselor a few blocks away so I scheduled an appointment. The first time I was so nervous. Plus, I felt laced in weakness, like I was letting everyone down by stepping foot inside the office of a counselor.
Then it happend, I got called into the room. There wasn't a roman couch? All the lights were on. The Doctor was friendly and casual. He asked what I did professionally and we had some small talk. The big moment came and the Dr said, "So what did you do, why are you here?" I said, "I haven't done anything?" The Doctor looked a little confused and said, "If you didn't do anything, how did you end up here?"
At this point, I began to panic. I replied, "I got here because I searched available counselors under my insurance networt . I think if I don't talk to someone I'm going to freak out." The Doctor tilted his head and said, "Oh good, typically people are in my office because they have already done something and freaked out."
And that was the worst of it. Right there, the hardest part was done. After that we talked about how I was feeling in my job. We talked about situations. We talked about boundaries I let people cross and conflicts I was having. It became an ongoing conversation over weeks. I could speak openly and not worry if he would leak how I felt. He helped me process feelings and situations, he started to give me a new focus on hope. I went to counseling for an entire spring. It was awesome. It was so good to unpack all this junk that I had let build up inside of me.
What about you? Would it be good for you to talk with someone about how you're doing? Here's a sign that it is time for you to visit a counselor: If everything inside of you says not to. No joke. We know resistance wants to remain in our lives. Resistance tells us: Things can't get better. That relationship will never get better. That work situation can never improve. I don't have what it takes anymore.
90% of the best leaders I know have all spent a season in counseling. Counseling is not about a crazy person getting healed, it's about having the opportunity to process the stuff happening around you and inside of you. My encouragement is to get past the resistance and go talk with someone you can trust. You'll be so glad you did.