There are many different reasons that hold us back from getting the help we need. It can feel daunting to ask a friend or family member for help, let alone a professional, especially when it comes to our mental health. But once we get past the societal stigma (that is currently on the decline), there are other factors that can hold us back, that we’re not even aware of.
Some of us go into counselling knowing exactly what is causing us distress and are excited to work on ourselves, even though we know it will cause us some emotional stress along the way. Others may feel that something is off within them but are unable to identify the cause, and for one reason or another, (possibly fear shame or guilt) are not prepared to reach out for help, or don’t think they can improve.
In therapy there is a concept called motivational interviewing or MI. Motivational interviewing is a collaborative, person-centered form of guiding used to help an individual realize what they would like to improve or change, and work towards strengthening their skills to do so. (Miller & Rollnick, 2009)
At its core, motivational interviewing is a conversation about how you would like to make a positive change in your life. Understanding the stages of change and knowing where you fall within the spectrum of stages will help to give you a better idea if you’re ready to start counselling.
Below are the stages of change with questions to reflect on. Truthfully answering these questions will assist you in understanding where you fall within the spectrum of change.
Stages of change
Pre-contemplation – You haven’t started thinking about change.
Am I experiencing a high level of distress?
Am I spending a lot of my energy focused on this distress?
Is it interfering with my day to day life?
Contemplation – You are beginning to consider making a change, but you are not prepared to make a commitment.
What are the pros and cons of the thing I want to change?
How could my life improve if I made positive changes to the issue?
What are my values in relation to this change?
Preparation – You are starting to prepare to change in the near future.
What are my goals for changing?
What will my plan for change look like?
What/who are the supports in my life to assist me through this journey?
Action – You are working on actively implementing an action plan of change.
What are my new positive behaviours associated with the change?
What am I doing to reinforce these positive behaviours?
How does it feel to be achieving this goal?
Maintenance – You are maintaining a healthy lifestyle with the changes that you have implemented.
What are some challenges that could arise and derail my change?
What can I do to prevent these challenges or work through them when they occur?
How will I positively maintain the changes I have made?
Counselling usually comes into play for individuals at the stage of preparation. If you find yourself in the stage of contemplation, you may feel or have felt ‘stuck’ or unable to make positive changes in a long time. Working with a counsellor at this stage can help you to figure out what is holding you back, and can assist you in working towards strengthening your motivation to move to the preparation stage.