Five things it might help you to know before starting counselling
I think that people are becoming more aware and accepting of the idea of seeking support when life feels difficult. However, unless you have already experienced counselling, you might have preconceived ideas about what it involves. Here are five things about counselling that might help you to explore whether it’s right for you.
1) I won’t tell you what to do
A counsellor doesn’t give you advice or their opinion about whatever might be going on for you. My job as we sit together is supporting you to explore what has brought you: to be curious; notice things; to summarise and reflect. Sharing your pain and your experiences in a therapeutic relationship is a powerful way to help you understand where you are and how you might like to move forward. Chances are, the answers you need are inside you already. I can support you to make sense of how different parts of your life, and parts of yourself, may be contributing to how you are feeling. Having a healing space to bring what’s in your head and your heart into the open can help you to learn to listen to and trust yourself again.
2) It’s a unique relationship
The relationship with a therapist is different to any other sort of relationship in your life. I am there for you, to listen without judgement. Clients have said that I am warm, kind and compassionate. Experiencing this in a therapeutic relationship can help you to open up and explore what might be keeping you feeling overwhelmed or stuck. What you tell me doesn’t leave the room: confidentiality is vital in giving you a safe space to explore what is important to you. In a first session, we will talk more about confidentiality and how it works in counselling.
Counselling is about you, not about the counsellor. The conversations that happen in therapy are different to those with a family member or a friend, because I’m not in your life in that way. It’s your space, so you won’t hear me sharing information about me. That boundary means that the time we share together is yours. You can use it to explore your story and how you might like things to be different moving forward.
3) It’s your time and space
Have you ever noticed how saying things out loud – the fears, the feelings, the worry, can sometimes mean that they lose their power over you? Really slowing down and exploring your thoughts and feelings can help you to find clarity and to heal from difficult experiences. Sadly, in our age of distraction, being truly and actively listened to and accepted can be a rare and precious thing. This in itself can be a transformative experience in counselling.
I won’t be setting an agenda or saying that we need to talk about a particular thing. We start from where you are at, working together to explore your goals and how you might like things to be different. You create the map. As our relationship develops, I might support you to notice patterns or themes within what you have shared. This can help you to become more aware of parts of yourself and how you are in the relationships in your life and perhaps identify choices in moving forward.
4) You are unique and we are all human
No-one else in the world has had your experiences, upbringing or has lived in your body. Our family and our experiences shape us in many ways, from, and even before, birth. You have existed in all sorts of relationships in the past and now. There may be patterns in how you relate to others that are unique to you. I don’t make any assumptions about your life: you are the expert. Part of our time together might be to be curious and explore what has brought you to where you are now.
You might be experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety, but this can mean something different to everyone. Feeling anxious, for example, can play out very differently for different people: in your body, emotions and your mind. Again I don’t make assumptions: we can explore your experiences: turning toward them with kindness and curiosity. This can feel quite different to how you might have been coping or fighting against your thoughts and feelings. It is brave and courageous and I am there for you in this process.
Although we are all unique, I also believe that we share common experiences as human beings. We are hard-wired to have connections to and meaningful relationships with others. We sometimes have busy minds, full of thoughts and judgements. We all have the same sorts of brains and nervous systems (although interestingly our experiences at different points in our lives can literally reshape our brains). We have an in-built drive for growth and for finding purpose and meaning (although perhaps sometimes the noise of modern life can drown it out). We want to be happy and not to suffer. We all have a capacity to be creative and we need time to rest, play and do things that bring us joy. A lot of us might find change hard. I’m a normal human being too: on my own journey and experiencing the ups and downs of life.
5) You don’t need to feel bad about seeking support
Perhaps you are thinking about having counselling, but you feel guilty or you have a voice in your head saying that you’re weak for needing support. We can be very unkind to ourselves sometimes: we wouldn’t talk to others the way we sometimes talk to ourselves in our minds. Sometimes accepting where things are at for you can be a first step in beginning a journey of healing. Knowing that it’s ok not to be ok can sometimes help to ease that sense that you ‘should’ be coping: again we are all human and it’s absolutely ok to need help sometimes.
I know from my own experience that sometimes it can be very hard to give ourselves compassion. In the past when I have experienced difficulty, sometimes I would beat myself up for feeling what I was feeling, thinking that things shouldn’t be this way. I would fight my thoughts and emotions. I was suffering but I found it so hard to be kind to myself. My experiences working with clients show me that I was not alone in this. We are often our own worst critics and unkind to ourselves when sometimes our thoughts and feelings are understandable responses to difficult experiences. I can support you to learn to give yourself compassion: to be kind and open-hearted to yourself in challenging times. Sometimes shifting how we relate to ourselves can be very powerful.
If any of this resonates with you and you think that counselling might help you, please contact me today to have a chat and arrange a first session at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 07732 709200.