The most popular article on RelevantMagazine.com is “What To Know When You’re 25(ish).” I remember reading it and nodding along with everything on the list, but the one that stood out most to me was about the value of counseling.
The author writes, “Twenty-five is also a great time to start counseling, if you haven’t already, and it might be a good round two of counseling if it’s been a while. You might have just enough space from your parents to start digging around your childhood a little bit. Unravel the knots that keep you from living a healthy whole life, and do it now, before any more time passes.”
One important thing I learned in my 20s, mostly through trial and error, was how beneficial counseling can be. Because the thing is, no one escapes life without some wounds or hurts or just general hard stuff to process through. No one. And your 20s are a great time to start talking that through with a professional — someone who can provide some perspective as an outsider.
I was a little scared to actually start seeing a counselor. No one in my family had ever done it, and it felt uncomfortable to meet with a stranger and be open with the most personal stuff in my life. But after a six-month stretch where every familiar and secure thing in my life ended, (including being laid off, breaking up with a boyfriend, the death of my grandma, and almost losing my friendship with a best friend), I was a mess. I didn’t have time to grieve the first loss before the next one happened, and after it all snowballed, I was emotionally and spiritually buried. I knew I needed something more than my Bible and some serious journaling time (my previous solution to processing through the hard stuff) in order to be healthy.
I found a lovely Christian counselor (Focus on the Family can help you find a counselor in your area) and met with her every week for a few months, and then periodically for check-ins over the next few years. The first session was uncomfortable, but by the end, I wondered why I had waited so long to do it. The immense sense of freedom I felt by not having to carry every burden by myself was life-giving. It was really hard at times, as introspection can be, and sometimes I was surprised at the healing that came out of each meeting. The things I thought would be really hard to work through ended up being not a big deal, and the things that felt like were no big deal ended up taking more time and energy to process than I had anticipated. I realized that I had been a “real adult” for enough time that I could objectively look at my childhood and family relationships and recognize where I needed a change in perspective.
I was 27 and single when I first started seeing a counselor, so I was in a prime position. One of the first things my counselor told me was how blessed I was to be working on the tough stuff as a young adult, rather than at middle-aged, when a spouse and a family add more layers of complexity, and even more time has elapsed to re-enforce the negative habits.
At the end of the summer, I had unraveled everything and had begun to put the pieces back together in a better way. And bonus: Now I had the tools to deal with the hard stuff the next time it came. Counseling wasn’t just talking about my problems for 45 minutes every week. It was learning how to grieve in a healthy and constructive way. It was recognizing the lies I had believed and replacing them with truth from Scripture. It was seeing my life, the good and the bad, from a healthier perspective.
I’m convinced that one of the best things you can do in preparation for adulthood and all that lies beyond is to find a wise, godly counselor and work on your issues. Your future self, and let’s be honest — your future spouse — will thank you!