What Is Counseling?*

There are many myths about what Counseling entails. Most of them are rooted in some outdated ideas about psychology and psychotherapy. Unfortunately, images of old men in beards, clients on couches and patients in asylums still define what counseling is for many individuals who might benefit from what counseling offers today. Often, people dismiss counseling as:

Something for "crazy people"?
Professional help for people with really major problems?
An activity for people who are way too preoccupied with themselves!
A crutch for people who are just too weak to handle life.

Usually, if counseling is described in these ways, the descriptions are coming from people who have never been to counseling....

Counseling is many things ...
but a good place to start may be by clarifying what counseling is NOT!

  • Counseling is NOT a place that people go to find out if they're "crazy" ...but rather to get support because sometimes the world can seem pretty "crazy."

  • Counseling is NOT something that attends only to "major problems," but also to whatever a person feels when distress is getting in the way of living life with satisfaction. Counseling simply helps show persons that they possess the strengths and abilities to manage their challenges.

  • Counseling is NOT an activity for self-absorbed people. In fact, most people who seek counseling are struggling because they are very sensitive to the feelings and experiences of others and want to preserve their relationships by working on the difficulties that threaten them.

  • Counseling is NOT an activity where one expert analyzes the client. Rather, it is an activity where counselor and client work as a team to make positive changes in the client's approach to life.

  • Counseling is NOT a crutch for weak people. Rather, it is a vehicle for strong people who decide to face their challenges directly rather than continue in the more frightened and “escape-oriented" ways that others use to deal with difficulties.


Counseling is a unique relationship in which the Counselor's job is to hold up a mirror in which the client sees himself or herself. We all have experiences in which we can't see things about ourselves without a mirror: like whether our hair is fully combed, whether we have something stuck in our teeth, or whether we have a wound in a hard to see place. We often need mirrors to see these things well enough to do something about them. And sometimes, we need someone to hold the mirror so we can see the things that are at more hidden angles. In addition to knowing at what angles to hold the mirror, the counselor understands that sometimes it takes a while for folks to see what they need. Finally, because most people tend to be hard on themselves, the counselor knows to hold the mirror in such a way that the client can see himself or herself from a caring, supportive, and sympathetic perspective.


Often counselors seem to only be repeating what clients are saying to them or paraphrasing rather than giving answers:

I hear you saying....
It seems that you are....
I can feel that you are experiencing...
How does that make you feel?
What emotions do you have about this?

Actually, when counselors are doing this, there is a strategy behind it. Remember, counseling is not about experts fixing problematic people. Mirrors don't comb our hair. They just motivate us to pick up the comb by showing the areas that need our attention. When counselors ask such questions or make such statements, they are not necessarily seeking answers from clients. Rather, they are simply giving the clients an opportunity to focus on the things that seem out of view for them. Often this involves pointing the mirror to some neglected painful emotions.

Counseling is about reflecting back to the client that he or she is being heard and providing them an opportunity to hear themselves. Often, hearing ones own thoughts and feelings in another person's words adds a clarity and support that's difficult to grasp when emotional turmoil simply swims around in our heads without any form. When persons can see the most complete reflection of themselves, pain and all, they are more capable of learning about the details of themselves. With this enhanced perspective, those in counseling can make the adjustments needed to make their lives more satisfying.

The Counseling Relationship

Mirrors With Expertise

Sometimes, because counselors have a lot of experience witnessing human beings in various forms of life challenges, they can ask questions or share observations that are more revealing than what friends or family members might say. With these new revelations, clients make decisions, and with the support of the counselor, they take action toward positive growth in their lives.

Thus, the relationship between the counselor (the supportive mirror) and the client is helpful in and of itself. The counseling relationship is one that exists between a person with caring expertise and a person with discouraging isolation around difficult life experiences. It is a relationship that emerges through a sharing of personal history and exploring powerful emotions surrounding experiences like:

Confusion, trauma, rejection, hurt, anger, fear, abandonment

Because the counselor is a real person who typically cares genuinely about the client, a relationship develops between them. Genuine connection, defined by closeness between two persons out of the trust-based sharing, emerges between them. However, because the counselor typically discloses very little about himself/herself in the counseling relationship in order to maintain a focus on meeting the client's needs and because the counselor's job is to "hold up the mirror," you, the client, are actua1lv forming a new relationship with yourself--- in more emotional detail and with a more accepting perspective.

In this way, you, the client, begin to form a close relationship with yourself as a growing individual, increasingly equipped to take care of your self.

This point is important to emphasize because it explains counseling as a venture aimed at helping clients become autonomous rather than fostering dependence on professionals.

Mirrors Come in Different Shapes

There are different forms of counseling and there are different approaches counselors may take to the same issue. Most counseling at Archway Associates is offered in one of three forms: Individual Counseling, Couple Counseling and Family Counseling. Each counselors approach may vary. Read his/her bio on this website and/or call to discuss his/her approach as preparation for selecting a counselor who will work best with you.

If you decide that you might want to explore counseling as a resource, you may contact any of the Archway Associates listed on this website through our answering service at 248-827-8801, by calling the individual therapist at the number posted at the bottom of his or her bio on the staff page, or via the Contact Us page.


* Edited from © LifeShops Outreach Products