What is counselling?
Counselling is a semi-structured conversation between two or more people. It encourages the client to develop new ways of thinking. Humans are self-aware and have the ability to think about and generate emotions at will. This can be done with clarity and is a huge part of being human. However, this ability may also cause problems; as the way we think can affect our emotions and behaviours.
Counselling falls under the umbrella of ‘talking therapies’ and allows people to speak about their situation in a confidential and safe environment. A counsellor will listen to you and respect you as a person, so that a trusting relationship can develop. This is non-judgmental and therefore allows a process of exploration to take place in a safe and secure environment. The counsellor will remain neutral to the values and beliefs of the client.
Counselling is a form of psychotherapy that does not involve giving advice or telling the client to take a particular route to reach their goal. Counsellors do not exploit their clients in any way. However; they will encourage you to talk openly about what is troubling you in order to help uncover any root causes and identify how this affects your thinking.
The counselling relationship develops over the sessions, increasing the trust between the counsellor and the client. Feelings and emotions like anger, anxiety, grief and embarrassment that may have been hidden for a long time can be revealed to the counsellor, who will listen to them and help the client to accept the feelings in a more healthy manner. This will allow the client to consider new options for dealing with their issues and difficulties.
Counselling does not have a fixed format as each session is usually tailored to the client. This flexibility allows for a variety of counselling formats, such as:
- Face-to-face, (one-to-one) sessions
- Face-to-face group sessions
- Telephone or Skype counselling
- Online counselling by email
When deciding which counsellor to choose it can be very useful to understand the different approaches or therapies they may use in their work with you. It is possible that you may feel one approach seems better than another. In which case ask the counsellor to explain it in detail.
Many counsellors work within the following categories of therapy:
- Cognitive and behavioural therapies; these examine your cognitions and behaviours
- Psychoanalytical and psychodynamic therapies; the focus here is on the unconscious relationships that evolved from childhood and how they are affecting you now
- Humanistic therapies; these concentrate on your self-development in the ‘here and now’. They do not tend to dwell on the past.
- Arts therapies; the use of creative arts within the therapeutic process is used to help the person express their emotions and move forward
- Couples and Family counselling; resolving issues experienced by couples or whole families.
Click the title of each category to link to a more detailed page.
The above is a massive generalisation and many counsellors utilise a form of ‘integrative’ counselling. They have learned several of the above therapy approaches and have drawn on certain specific techniques from them.
Other counsellors work in an ‘eclectic’ way. They have learned several of the above therapy approaches and blend them as required for the client.
Can counselling help me?
Counselling can help people with many different problems. Please follow this link to the Common Problems page to see the main problems our therapists and coaches aid clients with.
Please be aware that not everything on that list may be worked on by counsellors and that not all possible issues are listed.
How can counselling help?
For many people it is a safe, non-judgemental and confidential environment to speak freely in. It is a space to express and explore your thoughts and emotions with an unbiased person. (We all know that in the “outside world”, what we say to others can have effects we were not expecting and can cause major problems.
Remember that counsellors may not give you advice or tell you what to do to feel better. A good counsellor will help you to uncover your own insights which in turn will help you to understand your problems.
Counselling is not a brief therapy, look at it as more of a journey. Most journeys take time, so does counselling and also some consistent effort from the client to work effectively. Therefore it is best to opt for regular counselling sessions to get the best results.
Counselling does not only help you understand yourself better but how other people may be thinking and feeling. This ability to understand other people better allows you to make better judgements about what they say and do; thereby not allowing them to affect you the way they may have in the past.
Counselling requires you to discuss and explore painful thoughts, emotions and memories. This is often difficult to begin with and for a short time you may feel worse. However; confronting these things is necessary to move forward and you will soon start to feel better.
Some sessions will feel of very little value but others may contain massive gains. Just remember that it is a process designed to help you in the long term, no two sessions will be the same. Counselling is not a quick fix but the more effort you put in the shorter it may be.
In your first session, usually called an Initial Assessment your counsellor will ask you questions about you and your problems. Try to answer honestly and fully. This is the information that your counsellor will be using to help you.
Counselling is built on a trusting relationship with your counsellor. If for any reason you do not feel comfortable with the counsellor you have chosen it is absolutely OK to find a different counsellor.
Your counsellor will establish some clear boundaries about the counsellor/client relationship, confidentiality, behaviour, appointments and payment before you begin your sessions.