What's similar about choosing a counsellor and choosing a drink?
I took a trip to London yesterday to go and see a really interesting talk. More on that another time. It was great to have some time for me and I made the most of the opportunity by stopping for a drink and to watch the world go by.
Before I was able to stop and sit, however, there was the decision to make about what to drink. Matcha tea powder with your shot of beetroot? One of the 17 different blends of ethically, locally sourced organic juices? Iced tea? Kefir? Smoothie? I chose a can of fizzy apple. The water came from a mountain spring, nearby which happy rabbits and unicorns frolic, adding to the overall flavour and aura of the liquid. I exaggerate, but it wouldn't surprise me to read this on a can, to be honest. I wonder if it's a pressure of modern life in the West: that we have too much to choose from. What if it's the wrong choice? How will I know which is best? Will I be annoyed with myself if I try something different and then it wasn't great?
It got me thinking about how it might feel much the same if you are choosing a counsellor. With counselling, much as with almost all aspects of life these days, there is a huge choice. Of different people. Of costs. Of specialisms. Of ways of working and what 'schools of thought' people have trained in. On Counselling Directory, where many counsellors have a professional listing, there are over 40 different 'types' of therapy that you can search by. Just like that full-to-bursting drinks fridge full of choice, the same is true of counselling.
Perhaps when you are looking for a counsellor, it can feel a bit overwhelming and you aren't sure where to start. Probably what you would like is to explore what you might be struggling with, and perhaps to feel different, or have a different relationship to your feelings as you move forward. You might feel under pressure to choose the 'thing that will work'. I'll let you into a secret: one of the biggest factors associated with change in counselling is you. The client. Another big one- bigger than techniques and tools- is the relationship between client and counsellor. Warmth, acceptance, connection and compassion can provide a safe and holding environment for you to explore experiences and emotions that you may be finding difficult.
I am an integrative counsellor. Again, that can mean lots of different things to different counsellors. For me, it means that relationships are at the heart of how I work. This is about our relationship and how we experience each other, and exploring this. I believe that we are who we are from our past and present relationships. We don't exist in isolation but are part of bigger, integrated systems. And to be curious and interested in what patterns there are in your own relationships, which you may or may not be aware of. There's also the relationship you have with yourself. And to your feelings and your thoughts.
Each relationship in counselling is unique, as each client is unique. This means that I work flexibly: different people may need or want different things and different ways of exploring issues. Part of my job is to explore this with you- to help you to find your own voice and preferences. For me, being an integrative counsellor means that I can flexibly bring in (or integrate) different concepts and ideas that we may get a sense could be of value to you. This might then help you to integrate your own experiences and feelings and relate to them in a different way in the future.
So how does this help in choosing a counsellor? Not everyone will be your cup of tea (or bottle of beetroot juice with matcha, if you will). It's important to find someone that you feel you can develop a good therapeutic relationship with. For any potential clients, our first meeting is an opportunity for us to see if we would like to work together. And sometimes, much like when choosing a drink, listening to your gut instinct about what you might need can tell you a lot.