«Psychological counseling: an ordinary miracle for extraordinary people»

I believe you might be a little curious about the title of this article, and also, quite understandably, you might have questions about it, such as: “What kind of miracle? Why? And what unusual, extraordinary people are they talking about?”

Well, let me explain. We all know that since the ancient times and until now people have been trying to understand the mysteries of the human mind and soul. A long time ago, before the academic field of psychology was even born, research in this area was being conducted by shamans and healers, theologists, philosophers, and educators. Only very few selected people were allowed to “heal souls” at that time. Even centuries ago, there were various forms of psychological help: it could be the chanting of a shaman, or a confession with a priest, but it was always regarded as something mysterious and miraculous. It was often impossible and unnecessary to explain and describe methods of psychological counseling back then.

Today we can admit that, during the four centuries of its existence, the science of psychology has accumulated a lot of valuable experience and knowledge about the “mystical” process of helping people. Now, the “miracle” of psychological counseling has become a part of our everyday life, but at the same time it still retains some elements of mystery (for example, anonymity is one of the basic principles of psychological counseling). Carl Jung, the famous psychotherapist, observed once: “Even the Pope goes to confession once in a while...”

Nowadays, when people talk about psychological help, they actually talk about the use of different psychological principles to solve real world problems. The focus of psychological help is assisting people in overcoming psychological difficulties in different areas (e.g., personal, family relationships, or professional).

Psychological help can be provided in two different ways – non-professional and professional.

What is “non-professional” psychological help? It means that a person gets some psychological support from a non-professional, from someone he/she knows personally (relative, friend, neighbor, etc). “Amateur psychologists” come from all venues of life, and educational level is not important here; what really matters is the ability to really listen to another person and to be compassionate.

As for professional psychological help, its goal is more complex. First of all, the psychologist’s job is not to just give the client temporary relief, but to help him/her develop their own estimate of the challenges they face. In addition to that, the client, with the support of the psychologist, will work on solving his/her current problems, and also may be able to increase own self-acceptance and self-esteem, as well as develop respect and acceptance towards other people.

Well, this seems to clarify what “miracle” I was talking about. Now I’ll try to explain what I mean by saying that this miracle is for “extraordinary people.” The thing is, every person is special and unique, like a beautiful planet in the universe of life. It is impossible to find two absolutely identical people, no matter how similar they may appear. This is why we have every right to believe that we are anything but ordinary – each of us is unique, special, extra-ordinary! Moreover, it is necessary for people to believe in that.

Why? Because self-respect, self-acceptance, and loving attitude toward yourself are crucial for a balanced life. It is the very core of our attitude to our loved ones, to our families and friends, to people in general, to the whole world.

People who lack these important qualities – self-respect and adequate self-esteem – are often irritable and aggressive, they feel exhausted all the time, they do not have zest for life. Those are the people who get sick a lot and don’t recover quickly; they are accident-prone; they are more likely to have suicidal thoughts… All that happens because they do not really enjoy life, do not value little pleasures, and do not receive any support when they face everyday challenges. There is so little joy in their lives that they feel like they have nothing to lose...

All in all, it is really crucial for us to believe that we are unique and special, to love ourselves. Only then we can be truly happy and share our happiness with others!

In spite of the fact that nowadays there are many ways for people to learn more about different areas of psychology (for example, self-help books, trainings, workshops, etc.), you can still hear someone say, once in a while: “Well, you are totally nuts; you should see a shrink or something!” It is really harsh! As for “shrinks” themselves, they consider such attitude to be a sign of ignorance.

First of all, receiving psychological help is a really personal matter. Second, there is absolutely nothing embarrassing about seeing a psychologist. On the contrary, people who have a deep interest in their inner life and care about psychological well-being of their loved ones deserve nothing but admiration and respect. Understanding that you need the support of a professional psychologist in difficult times and seeking that support is the first, very important step toward personal growth and a better quality of life.

Also, many people know already that psychology and psychiatry are two very different fields. Psychologists usually work with mentally healthy population with adequate sense of reality. Moreover, if a psychologist sees signs of a mental illness, such a client should be referred to a psychiatrist.

*In this connection I would like to share some of my personal observations. After having worked in Greece for a few years, I noticed the following: when facing life’s challenges and trying to cope with difficulties, people often tend to seek help from psychiatrists. I think it happens because many people do not understand the difference between psychologists and psychiatrists, and also do not quite know much about where they can receive professional psychological counseling and how it can help them. Psychiatrists, on the other hand, tend to put patients on medications without trying to analyze and solve the underlying psychological problems. Prescribing medications too soon can be not just unnecessary, but even dangerous. The thing is, you cannot solve a psychological problem by putting a person on drugs; there is a possibility, however, to mask its symptoms, to “sweep the problem under the rug”, where it will stay and resurface again and again.

In order to give you a better idea of psychologists’ scope of practice, I would like to give you some examples of what might be the conditions psychologists often work with:

  • Strong psychological discomfort, which may make a person experience a range of feelings, such as inadequate anxiety and nervousness, doubt, distress, or guilt;
  • Low self-esteem, which is sometimes referred to as «inferiority complex»;
  • A conflict that a person cannot stop thinking about, that prevents him/her from enjoying everyday life;
  • Significant lack of communication, understanding, respect, and/or love from family, friends, significant others;
  • Absence of adequate psychological support from family and friends;
  • A strong need for personal growth and for understanding and accepting loved ones;
  • Long-lasting depression and grief;
  • Long-lasting consequences of psychological trauma.

To sum up, I would like to share my favorite metaphorical description of psychological counseling. Imagine that you stand in front of a big, crystal-clear mirror. When you look in the mirror, you can see everything with amazing clarity; you see details that you never noticed before; you have a new appreciation of what you see. You are truly happy to see the reality so clearly and without any distortions. Seeing your own reflection with such clarity and from different angles lets you understand and rediscover yourself, which may help your potential emerge more fully.