A Safe Place To Talk
What is counselling?
Counselling falls under the umbrella term ‘talking therapies’ and allows people to discuss their problems and any difficult feelings they encounter in a safe, confidential environment. The term can mean different things to different people, but in general, it is a process people seek when they want to change something in their lives, or simply explore their thoughts and feelings in more depth.
What will counselling help with?
A counsellor is not there to sit you down and tell you what to do. Instead, they will encourage you to talk about what's bothering you in order to uncover any root causes and identify your specific ways of thinking. The counsellor may then look to create a plan of action to either help you reconcile your issues, or help you to find ways of coping.
Counselling does not come in a cookie-cutter format and each session is generally tailored to the individual. There is flexibility within this type of therapy that allows for a variety of counselling formats, including:
What forms of counselling are there?
Face-to-face - This is when you make an appointment with a counsellor to see them in person, usually at their practice. Face-to-face sessions are one of the more popular therapy formats because they provide an opportunity for you to react to any emotions that arise there and then.
Individual or group - You may choose to see a counsellor by yourself, or if you prefer you could join a counselling group with people experiencing similar issues. Going to a group counselling session can be helpful if you want to discuss your issues with people who are going through similar problems and you may even gain yourself a support network. Alternatively, you may wish to see a counsellor alone to preserve your privacy and concentrate on your own feelings.
Telephone counselling - For some, telephone counselling offers a helpful alternative to face-to-face counselling. This involves talking to your counsellor over the phone instead of in person. This form of counselling can be particularly useful for those too busy to attend face-to-face sessions and can be carried out in the comfort of your own home. This format also tends to be more flexible and can potentially reduce waiting list times.
Online counselling - Some people prefer not to physically speak to a counsellor at all, utilising technology and emailing their counsellor instead. This form of counselling allows you to take the time to think through what you wish to discuss, and many find the act of physically writing their issues down cathartic. Online counselling also offers you the chance to protect your anonymity.
Benefits of counselling
The way counselling can help will depend on the person receiving the treatment. For many, the fact that counselling offers a safe and confidential environment to speak in is all it takes.
In life, what we say to others can sometimes have a knock-on effect, altering relationships and the way people see each other. Counselling eliminates this problem and offers you the space and freedom to explore your own thoughts with an unbiased party.
While counsellors may not give you concrete advice or a checklist of things to do to feel better, what they will do is help you uncover your own insight and understanding of your problems providing you with the tools which will help you to resolve them on your own.
In the majority of cases, a single session will not be enough to help overcome any issues you're facing. Counselling is a journey, and it takes time and consistency to work effectively. Because of this, many people opt for regular counselling sessions to make the most of the process.
Counselling can help you understand yourself better and the way you think, which will ultimately help you develop a clearer understanding of your problems. The more armed with information you are, the easier it gradually becomes to navigate your way through any difficulties you are facing, so that eventually you can come out the other side feeling more positive. Counselling can also help you better understand other people's point of view, which can shed light onto the way you interpret words or actions.
What to expect from counselling
If you have decided to try counselling, you might be feeling anxious about your first session. Making the decision to get help and address the issues you are facing is an important first step and should be commended. Knowing what to expect from a counselling session should help you feel more prepared and less nervous about your first appointment.
In your first session, it's likely that your counsellor will ask you some questions in order to gain an understanding of what's worrying you and the way your thought processes work. All of the information obtained here will be used to help you in future sessions.
Some questions your counsellor may ask include:
Why are you seeking counselling? - You'll most likely be asked what it is that has brought you here. This is your opportunity to discuss exactly why you are there and what you hope to gain from counselling.
What is your current situation and personal history? - It is important to let your counsellor know your current situation, this includes any day-to-day issues you are facing and even your work and home life. Discussing your personal history will give your counsellor a chance to understand more about you as a person and why these issues may have occurred.
What symptoms are you experiencing? - Whether these are physical or psychological, it is important to discuss any symptoms with your counsellor.
It is advised that you be honest and open when answering these questions in order to get the most out of your counselling sessions.
During your counselling experience, you should aim to build a trusting relationship with your counsellor so that you feel safe and confident discussing your worries. If for any reason you do not feel comfortable talking about your problems with your counsellor, it is perfectly acceptable to look for another one.
Your counsellor should establish some clear boundaries when you begin your sessions that cover the following:
Dates and times of the counselling sessions
Clarification of the professional nature of the counsellor/client relationship
How and when the counsellor can be contacted outside of sessions
The counselling process
Counselling often requires you to discuss upsetting emotions and painful memories. Bringing up these thoughts can feel difficult to start with and initially, you may feel worse. This process is necessary to move forward and in time, you should start to feel better.
To get the most from your counselling sessions you should aim to make them consistent. Some sessions will feel more helpful than others, but it's important to realise that everything your counsellor is doing is designed to help you in the long run, even if it doesn't feel like it in the beginning.
It's also worth remembering that counselling is not a quick fix, and that your counsellor will not be able to tell you what to do. The counselling process requires a strong relationship between you and your counsellor and a degree of effort on your part - together these two elements create a successful method to help you resolve your issues.