About counselling and psychotherapy
What is counselling
Counselling is a type of talking therapy that allows you to explore difficult feelings in a safe environment, in order to help you process those feelings to bring clarity to your thoughts, explore options, and work through your problems. The counsellor can also help to develop strategies to cope with your issues and increase self-awareness.
What is the purpose of counselling
We all have ways of avoiding uncomfortable feelings. Some people may choose to avoid, repress or bottle up their emotional difficulties or they maybe failing to process their emotions without even realising it. Consistent efforts to ignore our emotions won’t make them disappear. They’ll be waiting for us to acknowledge them at some point.
When these difficult feelings become an overwhelming challenge, they need to be addressed to enhance the quality of our life. If we don’t make an effort to allow those feelings to resurface so we can face them, they can become damaging and impact both our emotional and physical wellbeing. Merely masking or burying your issues, does not fix them. We may be surrounded by loving supportive relationships to whom we can speak to but, there can be times when we feel they struggle to hear us and fully understand the way we are really feeling. Therapy can give you the time and space to work through any problems, issues, or worries you may be experiencing. Through working with a professional, impartial, experienced therapist, you have the opportunity to open up about things you may feel uncomfortable or not ready to speak about with a loved one or friend.
How counselling can help
Therapy from a qualified counsellor, offers a safe space where you can explore your issues with someone who listens with empathy (by putting themselves in your shoes), is engaged and rooting for you, but also able to reflect on your situation with you from a variety of perspectives. She\he is there to support you and respect your views and help you understand your problems. By discussing your concerns with you, the counsellor can help you gain a better understanding of your feelings and thought processes, as well as identifying ways of finding your own solutions to problems – whether that’s making effective changes in your life or finding ways of coping. Therapy can help you gain a different perspective on problems and issues. This often is the first step to resolving your problems.
It is important to note that therapy is not about getting advice or answers or telling you what to do. Its about exploring together, what is going on for you and how you experience things, helping you reflect on issues so you gain clarity and feel empowered with the cognitive and emotional skills to make positive changes and great decisions. The therapist may occasionally offer information or suggest some coping strategies that you may want to explore for yourself to see if they help with your wellbeing, but only you can know what works for you.
You may choose to seek counselling not because you are depressed or traumatised or vulnerable but to find meaning and purpose, improve your relationships or simply because you would like support in achieving the personal growth you are striving for. Many people seek counselling because they have identified specific goals or issues that they wish to work on.
Whatever the impetus, by taking that first step to engage in the process makes it more than worthwhile.
What to expect from counselling
You might see a counsellor on your own, as a couple or family, or in a group with people who have similar issues. You might meet them face to face in their home, offices or clinic, or in an open space such as a park. You may also be able to talk to them online or over the telephone.
How often you see your therapist and how many appointments you have, may depend on your individual circumstances, and will be agreed between you and your therapist. Most therapy takes place in planned and regular, weekly sessions which generally last for around 45 to 60 minutes.
The number of recommended sessions varies depending on your individual needs, your circumstances and how you process. Some issues run deeper. However, the majority of clients experiencing some anxiety, report feeling better after 6 to 12 sessions. Part of the work you may well be self improvement tips (which are often about "conquering ourselves" i.e. overriding our feelings) but big part may well be about cultivating emotional wellbeing, which involves a relationship with ourselves (our emotions, our internal dialogue, how we treat ourselves), relationship with others and life itself. Its important to bear in mind that therapy is a process and just like healing cannot be rushed, the counselling process cannot be rushed.
During your counselling sessions, you'll be encouraged to express your feelings and emotions. It can be a great relief to share your worries and fears with someone who acknowledges your feelings and is able to help you gain insight to your problems as well as enable you to identify what solution may feel right for you.
Since counselling can often involve talking about difficult or painful feelings, as you begin to face them, you may occasionally feel worse in some ways, but with the help and support of your therapist, you should gradually start to feel better. In most cases, it takes a number of sessions before the counselling starts to make a difference, and a regular commitment is required to make the best use of the therapy process.
Depending on how you have agreed to work, your therapist may take you through specific exercises during a session, which are designed to help with your problem, or you may prefer to have more general discussions about how you are feeling. What you talk about will vary depending on what you want help with and the therapist’s approach. It could include:
Your therapist will be impartial but understanding. They will listen to you without judgment and help you explore your thoughts and emotions. They may offer information, but they won’t tell you what to do or how you should think as what may work for one person may not work for everyone since we are all unique individuals.
Counselling can take different forms depending on your needs and the type of therapy that may be suitable for you. There are many different types of talk therapies, but they all aim to:
Research has shown the relationship you have with your therapist is really important in how successful you find any talking therapy. Regardless of the type of therapy, if you don't like or trust your therapist you're less likely to feel able to open up to them, and are less likely to have a positive experience.
Therapy can work well on its own, or it can be something you try alongside other treatments, including exercise or medication. But its important to remember that therapy isn't a quick fix, so it might take some time to see whether it's helping you or not. And it isn't right for everyone.
What to expect in your first encounter (often a consultation) or counselling session
This first session is important for making sure that you feel comfortable with your therapist and their way of working. You don’t have to continue with a therapist if you can’t relate to them or don’t feel safe.
Each counsellor has their own way of starting therapy but a first session should always cover:
Your therapist should spend a few minutes introducing themselves and explaining how they work. You can ask them about their qualifications and experience, their therapeutic approach or anything you’re not sure about. Your therapist will want to make sure you feel at ease by sorting out basic things like whether you use first names or are more formal and when you would like to meet.
Your therapist may ask you if you would like to give a history of the problems you’re experiencing. They might want you to complete some forms, or they may just ask you to ‘tell your story’. It’s important that you feel you’ve had the opportunity to tell the therapist about what’s troubling you.
Your therapist should agree the terms, or 'counselling contract' before the work begins. This is a mutual agreement between the counsellor and the client which outlines your rights and responsibilities as well as those of your therapist. This may be either a verbal agreement or a printed document for you both to sign.
How to get the most out of your therapy
You’ll get the best results from your therapy if you’re open and honest with your therapist and say how you’re really feeling.
Your relationship with your therapist is very important. If you’re to work effectively together, you should feel safe and able to take risks by disclosing and discussing sensitive issues. That includes being able to give them honest feedback on how you feel about your therapy and how you’re working together. You may find it hard to tell your therapist ‘You’re not helping me’, ‘I felt bothered by…’ or to explain why you’re feeling unhappy, but being able to be open and honest is important for a successful therapeutic outcome. If something happens during therapy that you find unsettling or confusing, you should discuss your concerns with your therapist. This is important if your therapy is to be useful.
Your therapist may seem a powerful person and you might be worried about their reaction to critical comments. Or, if you’re finding the therapy useful, you may not want to raise the issue in case it spoils your good relationship.
Therapists can often sense when clients have issues but they’re not mind readers. A good therapist will welcome your feedback. They should listen and work with you to understand what took place, or explain why they acted in a certain way, so that you can achieve a better outcome from your therapy. Sometimes even small things such as the way the therapist spoke, the particular words they used, their tone of voice or facial expression can be unsettling.
Be clear about what your concerns are before discussing them with your therapist. You might find talking to a trusted friend or writing down what happened can help to clarify your thoughts and feelings. It’s best to tell your therapist what is wrong as soon as you can. Many therapists will invite you to give regular feedback during your sessions about what aspects of your therapy have been helpful and what have not. This can help you deal with issues as they arise. If they don’t offer time for this, you should feel free to raise any concerns in your next session.
There are many different types of therapist and therapy, and some practitioners will draw on one or more theory to guide them through the process of understanding clients and their problems. There’s no one approach that will work for everybody, so part the process is about discovering which styles will work best for you.
If you are experiencing difficulties, contact me to book a session! You can talk to me about your concerns and how we can work together. You can ask any questions you may have and gain an understanding of how you might get the most out of our working relationship. There will be no pressure or obligation to book further sessions unless you wish to.
Reasons why therapy may not be working:
You are not ready for change
Your expectations aren't realistic
You're doing a type of therapy that doesn’t suit your personality, or your issues aren’t suited to the therapy you are doing.
Your therapist simply isn't experienced enough
Your therapist simply isn't experienced enough
You're venting, without gaining insight
You are not reflecting or practicing outside of sessions
You are not consistent with sessions
You don't feel "safe" with your therapist so struggling to be honest
Your therapist is not culturally competent or your therapist isn't "getting you"
You struggle to trust your therapist
Your issues are physiological