I have been to seven different counsellors in my life.

On two occasions, it related to family-of-origin issues; two concentrated on parenting and marriage dynamics; two focused on my journey with depression; and one helped with a vocational transition.

Although the stigma surrounding mental health and counselling has lessened, unhelpful stereotypes still abound. For some people, going to seven counsellors indicates that I have trouble functioning. Those who view life through the grid of control and competence wonder why anyone would need that many helpers. Solver-fixer types interpret having seven counsellors as a reflection of the fact that I am not being given the right advice. People who struggle with vulnerability can’t fathom journeying to that many counselling offices.

Even though the counsellors came from different perspectives and the problems I presented were diverse, one thing brought it all together: They all wanted to hear my story.

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It isn’t enough to say there are issues in my family of origin, struggles in my marriage and parenting, angst in my journey of living with depression, or confusion in my vocational direction. Each of these categories is a window into the story of my life. They aren’t merely questions that require an answer, problems that require a solution, or experiences that need a fix. Together, they make up who I am.

With wisdom and empathy, all my counsellors have helped me to open up. When I wanted to tell my story briefly, even superficially, I was invited into a space where welcome and hospitality produced more detail.

All my counsellors have helped me to open up.

My sense of aloneness in pain led to an encounter of co-pilgrimage, where someone was walking with me. As my openness increased, the counsellors engaged with encouragement, information, skill development, guidance, and perspective. They became crucial in the re-creation of my story and helped me to discover where it fit into God’s bigger story.

In an environment of this nature, my story was being told and heard by the counsellor, myself, and God. This mystical link of curiosity, counselling, and story provided a context for healing. For this reason, I find it easy to encourage all those who have similar experiences to pursue the sacred space of counselling.

And for those of us walking alongside people with mental health challenges, let’s remind ourselves that we need to reside in their story. Rather than feeling the need to evaluate and diagnose, we can pursue empathetic curiosity and express attentive care.

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A portion of this article content has been adapted from Thank You. I’m Sorry. Tell Me More.: How to Change the World with 3 Sacred Sayings by Rod Wilson. Copyright ©2022. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries.

This article was originally published on The Sanctuary Mental Health Ministries Blog and has been republished with permission.

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