- Played the ‘counselor.’
I am not a licensed counselor or therapist. Neither am I a psychology student nor a medical professional. However, when I was a teenager fifteen years ago, I somehow declared myself a ‘counselor’ to my friends, and they accepted it. I am a good listener and can keep any secret. I should have left it at that and simply lent an ear to those who wanted to talk. But, I got involved in people’s lives, gave them advice, and spoke about topics like an expert when I was not one.
Now, I had not been to a therapist back then and had no idea what they actually did. I had watched a few TV shows and read some books with counselors in them and became a self-proclaimed expert on all things psychology. My eyes finally opened to reality when a friend correctly pointed out that I was not qualified to ‘counsel’ anyone. This classmate had been to a real therapist and told everyone else that I was a fake.
Looking back, I realize what I did was dangerous. I could have jeopardized someone’s life with my wrong advice. I might not have had an ulterior motive or leaked any of my friends’ secrets, but what I did was still inappropriate. Besides, years later, when I went to a real therapist, I learned that they don’t advise us but help us work on our problems and ourselves. It takes expertise and experience to become a counselor, and no one should attempt it without the right qualification.
Reminiscing, I recognize another thing—that the mental health stigma was worse back then than it is now. Today, when I see teenagers discuss depression and anxiety because of awareness through social media, TV shows, streamed series, documentaries, movies, books, and other platforms, I feel glad. Even now, there is resistance from youngsters to seek therapy, but there is an honest dialogue about the topic. I know for a fact that if I tried to pull off the façade of being a counselor now, I would be trolled, and rightly so.