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So many people I talk with in my Omaha counseling office are worried that something is wrong with them because they have anxiety, ADHD, depression, or some other diagnosable disorder. A doctor will likely say that you have a chemical imbalance and prescribe some medication. I see things a little differently, though. If you feel like you might need counseling, that doesn’t mean something is fundamentally wrong with you. A lot of people who come to me for therapy are worried that, on some level, they are broken beyond repair. I can tell you that I have yet to encounter someone who I believe was beyond help. Rather than being broken, I find that people are often just operating out of one or more distorted beliefs.

These distorted beliefs are deeply held and often unconscious.
Carrying these beliefs around with us has a huge impact on our lives – beliefs about our self-worth. About how we have to look or be a certain way to be accepted. About who we feel we are supposed to be. We have oftentimes held on to these messages since a very young age, and may not even realize it because they have just always been there.
We learn these distorted beliefs in many ways. It may be that you were bullied for looking different. Maybe sports were highly valued in your family and you just wanted to play chess and paint. It can be something that you learned over a long period of time or in a single painful event. However we came to believe these various things, they can have a lasting effect on our lives.
We are often motivated by these distorted beliefs, and just accept them as a part of who we are because we haven’t really known life without them. It takes time, and often outside help, to discover what our motivating beliefs are.
That is where I come in.
When people come in seeking counseling for their depression, anxiety, or relationship troubles, my goal is to get down to those root motivations and the emotions that go along with them. When people come to me for therapy, the presenting issue is often just a symptom. If all we do is get rid of the symptom, a lot of times it will pop up again in some other form.
We see this a lot with addictions or even bad habits. If someone is addicted to alcohol, and they just stop drinking but don’t try to replace those old activities and habits with new ones, they’re much less likely to break the addiction. That’s partly because whatever was motivating that person to drink is still there.
Most often people just try to replace their addictions or bad habits with something less destructive. This is just symptom management. It can be helpful, but doesn’t solve the root problem. It’s like putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound. The bullet is still in there and needs to be removed for the wound to heal.
Emotional wounds are no different.
Lasting change takes place when we get down to that part of you that has been holding on to those distorted beliefs and help you release that false belief and take on a new, healthier way of being.
If you are worried that needing counseling means you are broken or defective, I can assure you that you are not. If that is all that is holding you back from seeking counseling I urge you to reach out. I don’t just say that because I’m a therapist either. Mental health is something everyone deserves.

Cole Johnson is a psychotherapist in Omaha, Nebraska at First Light Counseling.