Suggesting counseling sometimes sounds like a cop-out


Sorry if this question will irritate a few people…

I’ve read many questions on this forum from people who had heart-wrenching questions about marriage, divorce, mistrust and deep hurt. (A couple of questions have been my own!) I’ve seen some people offer truly heart-felt advice, and I’m so grateful for everyone who posts.

However, more frequently than I think is helpful, someone will post “You need to go see a counselor” as their only suggestion. Not that it isn’t good advice, but I think the person who posted probably knows that’s an option. The fact that they’re posting the question probably means they aren’t at the point where they’re ready to do that yet.

If the person suggesting counseling is saying so from some experience, then it would make sense for the person to say “I understand your problem and have had a similar one. My husband and I went to a counselor because we had tried just about everything else. The counselor helped us to…” and so on. That would be so much more helpful and compassionate.

I don’t mean to be down on counselors, but I know that the best counsel comes from God, and that after that, I find it most helpful to talk with or hear from people who have been in similar situations.

Feel free to argue with me or even agree. (I’ll probably get flamed on this!) I really like this forum, and I’d like to see it be even more helpful than it is. I guess I’m trying to provoke some deeper thought on some questions.



I have suggested counseling…but sometimes it has been because I have nothing else to offer, and I don’t want the person’s thread to be left with very few responses. If people post a thread here asking for help, and hardly anyone responds I feel bad for them, that they may think people don’t care. I am certain that the original poster knows counseling is a possibility, this is just all I can think of at the moment to answer them in a response (in addition to offering prayers).

Often people that have posted here have dilemnas that I have no** clue **what to offer them. Divorces, infedelities, death of children…things I have not experienced. I suppose the suggestion of counseling seems like a “weak” response…and I guess it is, but I think it is better than nothing.

Good question though! Hope this helps, God bless.



First off, I don’t think it’s charitable for anybody to offer advice without compassion. There are one or two members here who are notorious for chiming in with very short, accusatory, presumtuous, and hurtful posts. Even if their advice is objectively good, how could anyone possibly take it, given the manner?

That said, I think that counseling is suggested frequently for good reason. The sad truth is that most couples won’t go see a counselor until the marriage hits rock bottom, whereas if they had gone before things got really nasty, much trouble could have been averted. Counseling is like rehab: people don’t want to admit that they need it. I can say this of a certainty, because I have been in that situation individually.

As my marriage is concerned, though, I am grateful that my husband and I got pre-marital counseling, which then continued after we got married and as issues began to arise. The fact that we started during our early romance made it seem natural to go any time thereafter, and we got through some very rough times this way. I would not hesitate to go back if my husband and I were ever to hit another rocky patch.

I’m sure that many people who ask for marriage advice on the forums have already thought of counseling as an option, but I would wager a guess that many of these would rather save counseling as a last resort. So I can only see good coming out of a large number of recommendations to get counseling. Perhaps these folks will be persuaded to expedite that option, since it is generally far more beneficial than internet forum advice (granted, there are some wise old souls here at CAF). :wink:


I also think it helps the person who is asking for help to know that counselling is no longer stigmatized and seen as a “you must be crazy or seriously messed up, get yourself to a professional right now” type of solution. In my opinion, the more people who suggest counselling in a charitable way, the more “normal” it seems.


From my own experience, someone wanted me to see counselor - that was the best advice I have ever received. He didn’t say much besides the advice.

Sometimes, it is up to the person who receives the advice to see and realize what is best for them. A very good-sound advice does not always end up a good advice; a general advice can turn out to be the best one ever.

In fact, when I was given advice to see a counselor, I then realized how bad it was. I had never imagined I would need a counselor. I am glad I did see a counselor.


**Are you male? because that’s another good point… sometimes men asking for advice want just that, advice on what to do. Not all of the “extra” stuff associated with it like why we are suggesting it or if and how it worked for us. I know some women like this too.

So I think if the OP who is asking for advice doesn’t like the short answer of “get counselling” then they should ask for more specific advice. Or better yet, assume the best intentions of the person offering the advice and accept it graciously.:shrug:**


Feanaro’s Wife, I also replied to your previous post. Yes, I am a male. The advice was short but it hit me hard like a thunder bolt. I was being humbled by this advice and I realized I needed help.


I think your best option would be to seek counseling.:stuck_out_tongue:

Sorry, couldn’t resist!:smiley:


Bless you all for being so good-natured about the question. It helps me round out my perspective to hear that so many folks have had good luck with counseling and recommend it from their heart and life.

I also understand what the first post-er was saying about offering it as a response to questions that have gotten few responses. I often look for those discussions that have had few postings because I know that when a person posts something, they often get disheartened if there are very few responses - and possibly feel alone in their plight.



I might suggest a priest first, who in turn might suggest a counselor.

It’s really for no other reason that I, as some random internet dude, have no competence nor resources to dispense authoritative advice on complicated issues. Most of what we can do is be the shoulder to cry on. Bear in mind also, that we are also usually only hearing one side of the story. Gettting a real life priest or counselor in the mix means collecting real testimony, putting all the pieces together, and seeing if someone has a case or is seriously misguided. I can be sympathetic, can answer questions on the faith, pray for them and encourage them to pray, but when it comes to, “What do I do about [insert real life conundrum]?” the prudent thing to do is encourage seeking out flesh & blood people with some combo of knowledge, competence and authority.


Ruby - If it makes you feel any better, the first month I was on CAF I was convinced that CAF was full of counselors trying to drum up business. :eek:
Before anyone flames me for this, I have since changed my mind

I do agree with the posters that said that sometimes maybe people will be reassured to know there is not the stigma of going to counseling that there used to be.

Personally (for myself and I am not offering this advice to anyone on here) when I feel myself feeling down, stressed, frustrated, whatever it be, I go to church!! Either Mass or pray at our Adoration Chapel. Sometimes I just go there and think. Church gives me peace and cost less than a counselor!! :wink:

I am not saying this will work for everyone, it works for me. I am not going to say anything else because I know I will get myself in trouble if I do!! :stuck_out_tongue:


One last thing, Confession is the BEST counseling I could ever ask for!!!


This can be very helpful. But sometimes we might need extra help, above and beyond what going to Mass or sitting in the adoration chapel might provide. If a couple has marital problems, counseling can help provide a way to address some of the issues. Now, in my opinion, counseling will be most effective in a way that includes prayer, mass attendance and confession.

Some people have deep, deep issues, that members of this board could never hope to solve through advice on this board (even though the advice is quite good). In situations like this, the best members can offer is prayer, encouragement and the suggestion to go to counseling.


Don’t get me wrong, I understand many people do need couselors!
Actually Scottgun and I must have posted right about the same time. I actually really agree with his answer. I would probably suggest a Priest first and am sure that most of our priest would refer someone to a counselor if their situation requires it. I also agree that we only get one side of the story most the times here on CAF.

Oh also, I do think I made it clear in my post that I was not saying that I would suggest what I do to anyone on CAF!! :smiley:


It’s a double edged sword.

I used to be more heavy on the advice and less on the “seek counseling” but I would get flamed with comments like:

*]“how can you tell them to XXX when you’ve just got one side”
*]“your answer is always ‘that’s a red flag and you should break up’ and how can you know that when they’ve only written one paragraph”
*]some variation on “you have no business giving advice when you don’t know the whole story…”


Counselling is not for crazy people; it’s for people who want to stay sane. I went through counselling to deal with extreme shyness, and I found it extremely helpful - I learned things in the privacy of counselling that nobody in the “real world” will ever tell you, just because they assume, “Everybody knows that. What kind of an idiot doesn’t know that?”

Counselling should not be seen as a “last resort for the desperate.” Instead, it should be seen as an ordinary part of the process of seeking real solutions for real problems. And if the problems are being caused by lack of knowledge of some fundamental principle about relationships, then the sooner you learn it, the easier your life will be. :slight_smile:




OutinChgoburbs - Glad to see that the humor made it through!! :smiley:


The people who responded could be too shy to get into their own experiences.

I agree, but look at the closed threads (such as this one) that evolved from being supportive to armchair psychology in a heartbeat. It was a great thread, and people were moved to share experiences, then talk about tratment and then diagnoses…and, well, per forum rules, the thread was closed.

And that’s where people have to be careful in their discernment, especially when they’re feeling vulnerable or feeling separated from God because of their issues. They may even be led astray to emotional happy-clappyism Sunday service for that hope of a “quick fix” to their problems or an experience of an emotional high that they think puts them in touch with God.

I do, too, though it’s usually in PM. People here are reluctant to open up on their lives, BUT I have found that the Spirituality Forum / Prayer Intentions thread is the perfect place to hang around. A lot of people share their experiences there, especially when the OP actually invites discourse by asking something like “Have you been there, and what did/do you do?” instead of the general run-of-the-mill “What do you think?”

I agree with some of your post - no flaming from me! But we have to be careful what we say over the 'net. First off, there are things we don’t want (or need) to reveal about ourselves, though we may or may not be speaking from experience. Most people who suggest counseling with also pray for the OP, and when that’s all you can do, that’s all you can do. It’s better than ignoring a cry for help.

Sometimes, suggesting counseling (in forum or through PM) is just the encouragement someone needs to actually get up and GO. It’s nice to have that encouragement, especially from folks in this forum.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit