Counselling Needs Rebranding

Last week I started my first class, which marked my first step in my long journey of becoming a counsellor. In one of my classes, my professor is a certified counsellor and he shared with us many snippets from his years of counselling experience.

One highlight that caught my attention is when he expressed his concern about the public perception of the counselling service and of counsellors. We usually don't see them as our go-to people when we are in need of help in dealing with a crippling emotional issue, the same way we see doctors as the go-to people when we need medical help.

Much of it has to with the stigma surrounding counselling and mental health. It is 2017, but many of us still think that mental health is not real and doesn't need professional help. But all is not lost, because the community is slowly growing its awareness with many individuals, like my professor, and NGOs making their voices heard in an effort to educate the public.

Beyond that, the professor alluded to something else other than stigma, and that is how counselling is presented to the public. Taking inspiration from the business world, when customers lose faith in a company then the company needs to do something to improve its image.

In many situations, the company needs rebranding.

Rebranding is a change in the corporate's image. Not only do the customers need to see the company differently, but the company also needs to present itself differently. The main purpose of rebranding is to rebuild trust in customers for the company.

The same goes for counselling.

If we want to know what is the current perception of counselling, we don't need to look further than our schools. For many of us, that is the place where we are introduced to counselling. In school, when it comes to counselling, it is always the "troubled kid" that goes to counselling.

Actually, to be more accurate, the kid is sent to counselling.

When a kid is sent to counselling, that doesn't wash off easily. It becomes a black dot in his or her reputation and it can stay there for a long time. As a kid trying to build up his or her identity in the world, reputation is everything and when something is perceived as a threat to that reputation, it becomes an enemy.

The intention behind counselling is to help, not to attack. It is meant to be a gift, not a punishment. But we don't view it as such in school. When you were sent to the counsellor's office, that is a punishment and it evokes a negative feeling.

Over time, it becomes a type of classical conditioning.

Whenever you hear the word counselling or counsellor, that same negative feeling comes up again. If no correction is being made, then you will grow up with that sentiment until you are older. So now, when you need help, you don't immediately think about a counsellor because the word "counsellor" doesn't evoke a good feeling.

You remember it as a punishment. Not a helping hand.

This is where a rebranding needs to happen. No longer should we advertise counselling as a form of punishment because it is not. Counselling is not to hurt people more, but it is a gateway to self-healing. Counselling should trigger a sense of calmness in the mind of the people who hear or see it. It should be a safe haven for people to find shelter and comfort amidst the emotional chaos they are experiencing.

But...saying it is easy.

How do you show it?

That is the challenge.

Motivational Speaker, Vlogger, & Author
Counselling Student

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