4 Reasons Why Stepping Into A Counselling Office Can Be Transformative & Life Changing
By Maja Kostanski
Stepping into the counselling office at my university at age 22, was one of the best decisions I have ever made. It was April, there was a warm breeze in the air, and signs of spring were blooming their way out of the ground. I was ending my 2nd year at university, which meant exams were looming and I was feeling completely burnt out and exhausted. Not only was my course load particularly difficult for me that year – filled with Calculus and Organic Chemistry, but my eating disorder, which I thought I had left behind years prior, was still very much present and seemed to be showing up more and more. I was struggling with binge eating disorder and exercise addiction and the stress of exams along with the pressure of the upcoming summer season, was amplifying my disorder to a point where I couldn’t face it alone any longer.
It was the beginning of a journey that was leading me to a much healthier and happier place.
The conversation with the university counsellor at my very first counselling session is now a distant blur because it was almost 8 years ago, but I do remember it being full of tears, emotions, difficult moments and ultimately relief, like a weight had lifted off my shoulders. It was the beginning of a journey that was leading me to a much healthier and happier place. Here are four reasons why walking into the counselling office on that warm April day was one of the best decisions I ever made:
1 - Counselling was the catalyst for my recovery from my binge eating disorder and exercise addiction. The university counselling office ended up referring me to a counsellor who specialized in eating disorders and had an office much closer to where I lived. I did several sessions with her and for the first time I opened up about many life events that I had been harbouring inside for too long. The sessions weren’t an immediate, magic fix to my disorder (that doesn’t exist) but they encouraged me to continue to do personal reflection, education and work, even when the sessions were over. It was this combination of counselling, my commitment to putting in work on my own time, and support from my loved ones, which led to my recovery.
2 - I have learned that asking for help is not only okay, but also necessary, and doesn’t have to be a one-time deal. Although I have been recovered from an eating disorder for many years, other things such as relationship issues, career indecision and anxiety have come up in the past 8 years. Having already gone through counselling for my eating disorder, I felt at ease reaching out for help again for these other issues. Going to counselling isn’t something to be ashamed of, it’s something to be proud of because asking for help can be difficult, and it means you are taking steps to take care of yourself and reach your full potential. I currently have a fantastic counsellor that I see a few times a year and it is comforting to know that I can book a session when I feel I need it.
3 - Counselling equips me with practical tools to keep in my tool belt. Not only can counsellors provide an ear for listening, but they also have a wealth of tools, resources and information to share that are pertinent to specific disorders and issues. My current counsellor always writes down mental exercises for me to practice and has provided me with helpful online links where I can educate myself even more on the things I am going through. This means that even once I leave the counselling session, I can feel confident knowing I have the tools and resources at my fingertips that I can turn to, which is particularly useful on difficult days. I use techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, and journaling on a regular basis and they truly make a difference in my overall well-being.
4 - I am now an advocate for counselling and encourage others to seek the help they need. It is a wonderful gift to be able to share my experience with counselling and the benefits it has for me. Perpetuated by the stigma of mental health that is ongoing in our culture and society, there is a still a sense of shame with eating disorders, and many mental illnesses for that matter. This shame can make it challenging for a person with an eating disorder to ask for help. I feel that the power of sharing personal experiences can make a big difference, especially if there is a whole community echoing the same message.
Eating disorders, and other mental illnesses, can be very challenging which means that putting our mental health first sometimes requires the help of caring professionals. I am here to tell you that reaching out for help makes you a stronger person. Everyone’s recovery journey will be different and may involve different forms and combinations of therapies and treatments. Counselling may not be the best fit for you, but it is worth trying and finding out for yourself. You may end up forming your own reasons for how counselling helps you! If the cost of counselling is holding you back, know that many schools, colleges and universities offer free counselling services, and there are also many private counsellors who can offer sessions at a sliding scale. Also, you may not connect with the first counsellor you see and that is okay. Do not be afraid to search for a counsellor that you feel you can truly open up to or that specializes in the issue you are going through.
I still get blown away with each session I go to because I always come out of it learning something new about myself, about the world around me, or about the fascinating world of psychology. For me, each session is a transformative and enlightening experience that helps me gain confidence and clarity, and most importantly reminds me that I am human and to be kind to myself. To all my past, current and future counsellors, thank you.
Maja is the Communications Coordinator at the Looking Glass Foundation, and holds a Bachelor of Science in Food, Nutrition and Health from the University of British Columbia and a Digital Marketing Certificate from Simon Fraser University. When she isn't working, you can find her mountain biking, hiking or running in the trails with her energetic dog, Luna.