The analogy of the gym creates a powerful insight into counselling

Are you a regular visitor to the gym? If so, do you find yourself hoping that no one will see you as you enter the building? Whilst you are there do you hope that no one will talk to you or ask you what you are doing there?

What do you tell your friends when they ask you ‘what did you do last night’? Are you too ashamed to tell them that you were improving your health and fitness and exercising your muscles and increasing stamina at the gym? And what if you do tell them? Do you think they would turn round and say ‘what you need to go to the gym for’? ‘I think you are perfectly alright as you are’?

Would you be left with the sense of shame, feeling that maybe you shouldn’t be there, you should be stronger, you shouldn’t need to build your muscles up because they should already be strong?

Are you familiar with the following sayings?

I should be strong

I mustn’t be weak

I should be able to cope

Crying is a sign of weakness and I must apologise every time I cry in front of others

I shouldn’t need help, I can do this alone

Things will get better on their own

Counselling and the gym are different concepts however they do share commonalities as defined in the table below.

Gym

Counselling

First introductory session to see if this gym is right for you. Is the equipment right for me? Do I like the set up and the ambience? Are the staff friendly, professional, knowledgeable and welcoming? Initial meeting to help you get a feel for the counsellor and the environment, ask questions and see the different ways in which the counsellor works and if it’s suitable for you. Do I feel comfortable? Is the counsellor warm and friendly and do I feel at ease here?
If it suits my needs I can buy a membership If this suits my needs I can decide to return and book some sessions
Warm up to prepare muscles for workout ahead Gradual introduction to counselling to help prepare you for the work ahead 
Build core strength to prepare a strong foundation for the muscles to sit on Looking at core issues that may fuel current problems. Addressing inhibiting core beliefs that serve to support problems
Work separately on each target muscle group in a structured sequence to maximise the benefits Detect problems and decide a hierarchy of needs to be worked through with structure
Stretching muscles to obtain flexibility Helping you to think and reflect rather than directly advising. Helping you gain insight and flexible thinking patterns
Building stamina to create endurance Obtaining resilience at times when things can be overwhelming
Building strength to gain power Gaining empowerment in a world where you may feel a loss of control
Addressing overwork, injuries and strains Relapse prevention should you experience setbacks
Cool down to prepare your system to recover and return to normal activities Time for grounding before leaving the session and building a sense of safety to help between sessions

Comparison summary

So, both the gym and counselling offer a path towards good health and well-being, and strength and endurance,  as a way of working towards the body and mind you desire and yet counselling is still often stigmatised and be seen as a last resort when things are beyond one’s capability.  Thankfully changes are currently evident in the field of mental health awareness and there is a welcomed correlation between the promotion of mental health and less stigmatisation.

What does counselling offer?

Counselling offers a safe and confidential environment where you have permission to demonstrate and own your feelings without judgment. It helps you create insight, plan goals, see yourself and others in a different life, build confidence and self esteem, lessen the effects of trauma and helps you reframe unhelpful beliefs.

Sarah Blay

March 2019.