The Counselling Shed

Be a good client or be yourself?

March 24th, 2023

In the pursuit of better mental health, there are many things that can help. 

Meditation. Mindfulness. Yoga. Exercise. Therapy. Good Diet. Sleep – a few that we often hear about. 


But there are other ways of healing too: fishing, running, knitting, baking, darts, playing the guitar, crosswords, puzzles, playing football, dancing…


We are all different and we all have our own particular way of doing things.


It strikes me that many people have practices that already support them to switch off, to connect with themselves, to be present, to chill out etc., but without specifically thinking about them as mental health tools. 


In fact, thinking about them as ‘mental health tools’ often puts people off. 

For example, I keep a notebook and pen close by most of the time so that I can jot down any thoughts or ideas that emerge – the notebook helps me to reflect on any issues that come up during my week – but call it ‘journalling’ and I go, ‘no thanks’. 


The truth is there are some psycho-babble buzz words that quite simply turn people off.

‘Well-being’ is a difficult one for some. 

‘Happiness’ can present too much of an expectation.

The counsellors favourite: ‘self-care’ can seem a bit trite. 

And don’t get me started on ‘trauma’! 


Am I just being grumpy or do you feel the same? 

Now don’t get me wrong, I think that all of these terms, and all of these therapy-endorsed practices – such as mediation, mindfulness, journalling etc. can really support clients to connect with themselves, with others, and to feel more at peace. 

But my worry is that all of the language around therapy and all of the practices that it tends to recommend, encourages people to become good little clients rather than be more of themselves. 

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken,” Oscar Wilde famously once said. 

“Be the person your dog thinks you are” Ricky Gervais said. 

And “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Howard Thurman wisely wrote.

The world needs people who are themselves: people who do things in their own particular, beautiful, sometimes seemingly awkward, ways. 

The risk is that the therapised world that is increasingly gaining steam, ends up churning out good little clients, who know about their attachment styles, who are adept at ‘processing’ their trauma, who know how to regulate their nervous system etc. – which is all good in itself – but that it forgets that the ultimate goal is to support clients to be more of the unique, amazing beings that they already are. 

They take up mediation and journalling but give up on their natural propensity for darts. 

The phrase, first used in the 14th century, “Don’t through the baby out with the bath water” also comes to mind. 

By all means, make use of the amazing tools and techniques that the therapeutic world is offering us, but don’t lose yourself in the process. 

If you’re looking to learn more about this, then check out my other blogs where I share more on how to grow in self acceptance, authenticity and vitality.

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