Effective Counseling Provides a Sounding Board for Personal Progress
It’s no secret that many people are uncomfortable with the idea of sharing their deeper thoughts with another. It taps into a variety of fundamental human anxieties: the fear of being wrong, on a deep and abiding level. The fear of being judged. It creates a sense of vulnerability, which is something few people can do with ease, and which nobody is ever truly comfortable with. When talking to a counselor or other mental health professional, there are intensifying factors: we don’t know this person. The fear of being judged, of being negatively evaluated by someone who is perceived of as an authority figure, is made stronger. For many of us, those of us who judge ourselves too harshly, there is often the underlying sense that we might say something “truly wrong,” and that doing so will have real, devastating consequences for our daily lives.
There are many good reasons for confronting these fears, and for seeking help through counseling as needed. A trained counselor isn’t there to judge a person, or to apply what they know, in broad strokes, to what they don’t know anything about. Their goal is to get to the root of a problem, and—in so doing—to help the person confiding in them to overcome it. In the process, they often hear a lot of things—from the strange, to the irreverent, to the irrational. From the perspective of a counselor, the person to whom they are listening has come to them—a difficult decision, in itself—to actively pursue a constructive, therapeutic solution. The tendency for disconnected thoughts to rise to the surface, including some which might be cause for alarm if taken out of context, is a part of the function of a counselor as a sounding board.
What is a Sounding Board?
A sounding board is someone who listens to what you have to say, but not for the sake of offering direct advice in response. The goal of functioning as a sounding board is to encourage you to speak your mind, so that you can hear your own thoughts spoken out loud. As a tool in the counselor’s toolbox, it’s a potent means of helping a person to approach their own therapy from an informed and objective standpoint. In both traditional and western treatment models, providing an individual with a sounding board is widely considered to be a necessary, ongoing step in the process.
It helps to provide the counselor with an initial evaluation of where you’re currently at, while simultaneously providing you with some insight into your own process—almost as if you were hearing it described by someone else, as their way of approaching things. It strongly encourages objective self-evaluation, which is something that can otherwise be quite difficult to achieve. As part of the ongoing process in treatment models which involve a long-term plan, including addiction recovery, having someone serve as a sounding board can help you figure out whether or not you’re still on your intended course—and, of your strategies implemented to date, which ones have worked well, and which have not worked as well as you might have hoped.
The potential applications for the use of sounding board modality are extensive. This is why the strategy has been employed throughout the medical, corporate, and educational circles in America today. The use of a sounding board reflects that the individual doing the talking already has all of the tools that they need in order to solve a particular problem, whether it is a personal health concern or a product design flaw. All that they need is to be able to take their thoughts out of their own head, and hold them at arm’s length, so that they can have a good look at them. This tool is widely employed, across many industries and professions—including the fine arts, performing arts, and other fields heavily reliant on creative self-expression—because it works wonders.
How to Overcome a Fear of Counseling
There’s no getting around the fact that, ultimately, overcoming the fear of counseling will involve stepping out of your comfort zone. It isn’t easy; one of the least helpful assertions that many people express (always meaning to make the idea easier to approach) is that it’s not a big deal. It is a big deal, for someone who hasn’t overcome that anxiety. That said, there are ways of making it easier on yourself, to the point where it isn’t such a spine-tingling challenge to simply set foot in your therapist’s office for the first time—or the second.
The most useful practice is to offer yourself some personal reassurance. Some people do this out loud, with nobody else around; others might practice in front of a mirror. You can go to somebody you trust, and ask them to reassure you, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Your true friends and family, those who care about you, will be glad to offer you their support. Meanwhile, if you can glean some benefit from doing this on your own behalf, you’re providing yourself with useful therapy. This reassurance takes the form of “there is nothing wrong with me,” “I am not flawed,” “I am not broken,” or some similarly true statement which—sometimes—we all need a reminder of.
Even if there is a “problem” of some kind, you aren’t the problem. You have the problem, and you’re trying to get rid of it, constructively. We all experience problems, at times, which require varying types and degrees of help from others to overcome. These aren’t always challenges with maintaining good mental health, but the same principle applies throughout. Recognizing the need for assistance, and seeking help as it is required, is a positive character trait: a sign of strength. Even if we have to work ourselves up to that point, the fact that we are making the effort speaks volumes in our favor.