Why do people go to therapy or counseling? The reasons people seek out counseling or therapy are many but it usually comes down to getting help in solving a problem they have not been able to themselves. Once they have reason to get help how do they find someone who can work with their problem? They might ask friends or people they trust, but ultimately most people are going to look on the internet at the websites of various providers whether suggested by friends or not.

As I look around at the websites of professionals, many of them will list their areas of specialty, or focus, or experience with clients. Sometimes its a short list, and sometimes it can be rather long. I recently viewed just ten websites of therapists and counselors to see what some of them were saying. Here is the combined list of everything they listed:

Anger Management
Conflict Resolution
Sex therapy
Sexual Abuse Survivor
Physical Abuse
Domestic Violence
Grief & Loss
Life Coaching
Drug Abuse
Gambling Problem
Men’s Issues
Women’s Issues
Infertility Issues
LGBTQ Issues
Adoption Issues
Marriage Counseling
Divorce Counseling
Eating Disorders
Self Esteem
Troubled Teens
Special Needs Children
Chronic Disease/Medical Issues
Personal Growth

One guy had 16 of those listed as specialties! The average of these 10 professionals was 11.4, and ranged from 16 down to 6. Now come on, can anyone really be a specialist in 11, let alone 16, areas of focus? And that list leaves out things like developmental disorders, personality issues and others.

What most therapists or counselors are trying to say is that they can work with anything that walks through their door, or that they have worked with each of these issues at least once. But that doesn’t make them a specialist. Anybody can work with an issue once, but can they do so effectively? Instead of looking for someone who can work with your specific issue, why not look for someone who can help you figure out why the issue exists?

7 Reasons

There are really only seven reasons a client will seek out therapy or counseling. All of the issues listed above fall under at least one of these categories if not several.

  1. Addictions
  2. Trauma
  3. Grief & Loss
  4. Parenting
  5. Marital/Relational
  6. Emotions (including depression, anxiety, anger)
  7. Coaching (Career, Job, Life direction)

So what about identity issues? Okay, let’s take a look. When an adult is struggling with identity issues (which is a teenage task), what is usually at play? Could it be because of past relationships where they sought the approval of others when it wasn’t needed? Low self esteem and a lack of self confidence due to exploitative relationships? Lack in trust of others as well as self? Don’t know who they are (relative to others) leading to confusion and isolation? Do they trust their own experience, or need external validation to be ok with themselves? Did the parenting they received as a child prepare them to deal emotionally with the struggles of life, or leave them questioning their own emotional viability? There’s six themes having to do with relationships. Gee… do you think identity issues are tied to relationships?

What about mood and biological issues? Since a therapist is not a doctor, I hope people aren’t seeking out a counselor or therapist for medical treatment. As far as living with someone with medical issues, learning about and making adjustments to daily living would fall under parenting or relational. Regarding mood, such as depression and anxiety, see number 6 above. Someone could take a prescription to manage their mood, or they could work on learning to manage the emotions of life.

Ok then, what about spirituality, where does that fall? Last I checked, spirituality is about a relationship with something outside of yourself that is bigger, stronger and smarter than you but loves and cares for you. Where do you think someone gets their definition of and initial experience of that relationship? Isn’t a relationship with God or a higher power intrinsically tied to a person’s relationship with their parents? However, know this, most counselors and therapists won’t touch the area of spirituality in a person’s life because it is a taboo topic. Hmmm… could it be that they have their own struggles in this area as well?

As you can see, most issues presented in counseling or therapy are really about something else, known or unknown. We as humans tend to make life so complex, when it really is much simpler.


Todd has been a therapist for over 20 years in a variety of settings. An unconventional therapist who tells the truth, Todd has taught undergraduate and graduate level courses, and authored his first book, Simply Relate.

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