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When Helping Hurts

“I was desperate, my partner just left, I had the kids to support and bills to pay. I did not know where to go for help. I made an appointment to see a Social Worker at Centrelink. I was teary, upset and scared when I met with her. I told her I had small children and I was separated, I had no money, or support system.

She said “Don’t think you can come in here and get a handout, I have been down to my last $5 and I’ve managed. Maybe your husband has problems at work and you just need to try to be understanding and talk to him about it.”


“I knew I was not doing well, I was struggling and each day was getting worse. I was so down that functioning was becoming more and more difficult. I finally got the courage and summoned energy to go to a psychologist. She was very matter-of-fact and not very warm. She gave me a questionnaire and had a coffee and a biscuit whilst I completed it. When I handed it back, she informed me I wasn't depressed, she said “I don't know what it is but I’ll see you next week.” I knew I was depressed but I left feeling suicidal”


“I went to the Doctor and told him my counsellor had suggested I get a check up to rule out any underlying physical causes as I had been feeling very down. He suggested I might be mildly depressed and then went on to tell me it was my religious faith that was causing it. He said he felt better after he had left the church and suggested I would too. He also said I should change my counsellor (with whom I was making lots of progress and was happy with) and go to a psychologist, intimating they were better qualified to help me.


“I went to the Doctor, I asked her a question and she rudely said “Be quiet”

Unfortunately variations of this story are not uncommon. These are stories clients have told me when they have sought help from Doctors, psychologists, counsellors, social workers, and have left feeling even worse.

When you are seeking help, it is important to remember that people in these professions are just like any tradesperson. There are good ones and not so good ones.

Poor practitioners make judgements based on very little information, give simplistic advice and opinions outside their profession. They can come across has high-handed, disinterested or cold.

They are poorly trained or have little people skills. When giving advice it should be within the boundaries of their profession, not a personal opinion. They do not made time to hear your story but seem to know whats best for you. If this happens alarm bells should ring.

If you spend more time listening to your practitioner than talking, or if you feel unheard, misunderstood and judged, then they are probably not the right person for you. If you leave feeling worse or even suicidal get help immediately.

Good practitioners know their boundaries, ask questions, listen intently and make referrals when they are out of their depth. They should be empathic, non-judgemental and authentic. Getting help should be a collaborative process, where you build trust and therapeutic rapport.

Ask friends and family for referrals to practitioners they are happy with. Treat your first appointment as a getting to know you visit. You should feel comfortable and safe. You should experience being listened to, validated and really heard. You should leave feeling a little more supported, hopeful and less burdened.

If you don't feel like this, change to someone else immediately.

If you wish to enquire about an appointment contact me.

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