What is counselling?
Let’s start with what it is not.
It is not being told how to live your life, it is not advice and it will not “cure” you. It is not the same thing as coaching, and it is not being analysed and being told what is wrong with you. It does not conjure up problems in your mind that were not there before, and it will not make your problems worse. Having counselling does not mean that you are weak and cannot cope with life, and it is not only for people who have mental health issues or a psychiatric diagnosis.
Everyone feels overwhelmed by life at times, for all sorts of different reasons, but sometimes this leads to anxiety, stress, depression anger or frustration. And counselling can help. It is about being heard, being allowed to tell your story without editing anything out for fear of being judged or shamed or misunderstood.
Who is it for then?
I think everyone has a story, don`t they? But who do we tell it to? Sometimes it may feel like no one wants to hear it, or maybe we worry that we will overburden our loved ones or friends if we talk openly. Talking about painful things can bring up feelings of guilt or shame, so it may seems easier to bottle it up and soldier on. We might tell ourselves that other people have problems too, some much worse than ours, but they seem to be able to get on with life so why can’t we? We might not even know what is troubling us. So we try to carry on. We keep those stories to ourselves until the day comes that we feel so heavy and burdened down that “just getting on with life” becomes almost impossible. Those untold stories begin to block our way forward and because we have kept them to ourselves, we can lose perspective. We get wrapped up in our stories, repeating patterns of behaviour over and over again, feeling trapped and unable to free ourselves or see a way out.
Imagine then being able to tell your whole story to someone trained to truly hear it, who can help you untangle your patterns of behaviour and remove the blocks to living the life you want to lead.
That is how counselling begins. But first you need to reach out and ask for help, and that can be very difficult to do. Remember that what you are doing is choosing to help yourself, so that you can experience life to the full without feeling stuck or sad or overwhelmed every morning when you wake up.
So what happens in counselling?
We talk. We explore how situations and experiences really feel, without holding back. You don’t have to worry about how your story will affect your counsellor, because their training has equipped them to deal with it all. And don’t worry about not knowing what to say. The counsellor is trained to help you get your story out. So you don’t need to prepare, or know where to start. Slowly you will begin to work through some of the stuff that has been getting in your way, and to question your thoughts, feelings and actions. That can feel scary at first, and uncomfortable, but you set the pace, and you are not on your own any more. Being heard without judgement is powerful stuff. It allows you to sieve through your thoughts and feelings until you can see what has been holding you back, and with the support of your counsellor, begin to move forward.
How long will it take?
Honestly? We won’t know until we start. It may be that after a few sessions of talking and clearing your head, you find yourself feeling more able to cope and not needing the support of a counsellor going forward. Or it may be that it takes times to get to the bottom of what the problem really is and we may need to meet regularly over a longer period of time. These are things that we will find out as we go along. But what you will need to do is to commit to come to your sessions on a regular basis, usually once a week for as long as it takes. Think of your sessions of counselling like any other course of treatment for example taking antibiotics for a chest infection, or going to a physio to fix a bad back: you need to finish the course of treatment for it to be effective. What I do know is the majority of clients seem to know very quickly what feels right for them, how many sessions they need and when they no longer need to attend.
Getting expert help for ANY problem is always a good idea. If you think you might be ready to tell your story, take the first step and book an appointment.
I offer a free 20 minute consultation for new clients, so we can sit down together and I can answer any other questions that you may have before you make the decision to start counselling.