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A Counselor Is Not an Oracle


Counselors help people, but they don’t have the answers to your problems. There’s a common misconception that therapists or counselors have all the answers like an Ouija board or a Magic 8 ball; they don’t. Their role is to guide you to come up with solutions. They can help provide coping skills and teach you ways to work with your anxiety, depression or manic systems (for example), but they cannot just “make things better.” It’s tempting to believe this rhetoric, especially when you’re in couple’s counseling and afraid of heading toward divorce. However, no matter how insightful a counselor is, they don’t have all the answers.

Debunking the oracle stereotype

Counselors cannot tell the future or predict what solutions will work for you. Professor Michael Wayne Hampton is an avid believer in therapy helping people with mental health issues. When he spoke about his experience with counseling, he was passionate about debunking the idea that therapists are oracles. He had this to say:

Everyone has to find their solutions and that can only happen through honest engagement and self-reflection. It took me years of study to get to the place I am now. I only get lost now and then. That happens as a direct result of not being present. When you’re getting lost, you’re clinging to something to solve the immediate emotion you are coping with right there.

Hampton touches on a point that anyone in therapy needs to understand: we cannot expect mental health professionals to know the answers to our problems.

Why do some people think counselors are omniscient?

Many people view doctors as geniuses. There’s an aura mystery that surrounds particular professions. One of the reasons people see medical professionals as all-knowing is because they’ve received a higher level of education. Many therapists have attended graduate school and Ph.D. programs. People tend to treat these individuals as possessing magical powers. The reality is, counselors and therapists are human beings just like you. However, we are conditioned to believe they are somehow on a higher echelon. They don’t have the answers because they completed graduate degrees.

A higher level of education does not mean you’re all-knowing.

Many people believe education means therapists know what their clients should do in the majority of scenarios. I know of a neuroscientist who has been in therapy who told me about the stereotype of counselors being oracles. He used the analogy of someone who fixes cards:

Your mechanic has just as much knowledge about cars as a doctor has about the human body or a therapist has about the mind; however, they aren’t a ‘doctor,’ and they don’t get to wear fancy suits or lab coats. The prestige is the difference. There are plenty of doctors and therapists who aren’t geniuses, but rather regular people.

Does anyone have all the answers?

No one has all the answers to their life challenges — not you, me, therapists, doctors nor neurosurgeons. Life is hard, confusing and sometimes brutal. Therapists and counselors can help guide us toward practical solutions, but they don’t have magical powers, to my knowledge, and that’s why the onus of emotional growth is on the client to work on finding emotional insight. Whether you prefer working with a therapist in an office or an online one, it’s up to you to dedicate your time to looking inward, understanding yourself on a deeper level and finding out how to heal. Online counselors can provide the same level of insight as a professional working in an office. It depends on the client’s preference as to what kind of therapy they feel comfortable using.

Your mental health is important.

Coping with emotional pain can be scary, but you’re not alone. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Some people care and can support you, even though you are the one who is doing the emotional heavy lifting. Mental health is as important as physical health and the more we learn about ourselves, the better we’re going to feel. I’ve yet to meet anyone who has the secret to life, but that’s what living is about, being OK with the fact that each person’s answers are different but valid.

Getty image by Wavebreakmedia.