There are so many different types and styles of counselling that it can be hard to know where to start, or how to make sense of all the different options, styles, counsellors and websites. Here are some ideas to keep in mind.
Introduction to Counselling: Counselling is a confidential one-to-one relationship
In counselling a working relationship is developed, the aim of which is to foster trust so that you might feel comfortable to speak about your concerns and hopes for the future.
We build up our psychological identities over the course of our lives
Our patterns of relating to others, of the attachments we form with other people are particular to us.
The basis of our attachment styles is determined by our early life relationships and experiences. This means that we developed them before we were conscious of what we were doing or what may have been happening to us.
As we move through childhood, adolescence and then adulthood, our psychologies become embedded in us. Some people are fortunate, and their early experience is safe and secure. From this secure base they can explore the world with confidence. Other people are not so lucky. They haven’t had the experience of a secure beginning and as a consequence life will probably have been difficult.
Counselling and psychotherapy is possibly the only relationship and place in which you might be able to change this.
Counselling is a confidential one-to-one relationship
It is a relationship, in which it may be possible to develop trust and to enable you to feel safe.
When we feel we are safe, that we can trust, then we can relax. When we don’t have to use our energy defending ourselves and our positions, then we can begin to be able to create new possibilities for ourselves.
Our minds and our bodies start to settle into new rhythms in which less energy has to be used up maintaining old defences. More energy is available for creative projects. It becomes possible to have deeper and more satisfying relationships with others. Over time, the safety that you feel with your counsellor becomes something that you can experience with other people.
Counselling and psychotherapy offer the chance to change the way you live.
Do’s and Don’ts
- Don’t go into counselling or psychotherapy with someone you know. Counselling requires confidentiality. In the long run you will lose the friend and still have the problems.
- Do, discuss the fee. Who knows how long you might want to be in counselling? It is hard to predict at the start.
- Do, think about what time will work best for you on an ongoing basis. Don’t set something up that feels problematic from the start.
- If you can, write down some thoughts about what has brought you to counselling now. Think about what you want to change and get out of this work. Think about the history of the problems that have brought you for help now.
- Do feel free to ask your counsellor about their qualifications, training and professional memberships.
- Do check the address, make sure you know where you are going, it will help take some stress out of the first session.
Short-term or long-term counselling?
There are lots of short-term counselling options. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) aims at helping you to deal with particular symptoms. These frequently relate to behavioural problems and issues. This may work well for you. But for other people, the behavioural symptom is linked to older experiences and problems which means it might take longer to understand and stop.
Longer-term counselling is not a requirement, but it may be that you develop an interest to pursue your counselling work further and deeper.
Diagnoses and disorders
The language of diagnosis has come to dominate the subject of counselling and psychology. Almost any unusual behaviour, be it blatantly destructive or not, has come to be seen as some sort of disorder. I think this is an unhelpful way of thinking about yourself.
The problems that we develop tend to relate to things that have happened to us
When we describe them as a disorder, we are unhelpfully cutting the link between our life stories, the things that have happened to us, and the psychological adaptations we have developed in order to cope with those events and experiences.
Counselling works by enabling us to develop trust in the process, the relationship. As this happens we become able to remember things, not just to think about who we are and how we live, but to remember how we have felt about key events in our lives. We become able to see the links between the problems we repeatedly experience in the present and the things that have happened to us in the past.
Preparing for your first Counselling session, what do you need to do?
Counselling doesn’t really require you to do anything other than to turn up for your sessions.
There is no formal homework. You are likely to think about the counselling sessions in between, you may write things down to discuss. But all you have to do is turn up for your sessions. If that can happen then other things start to happen. Your interest in your counselling deepens.
Gradually you start to identify things like the kind of ideas and attitudes you project onto your counsellor. Over time you become able to see that there is a difference between your counsellor and the projections you have about them.
We may not be aware of the strategies we have developed to defend ourselves from threats. They may be effective, but they require and consume our energy. What might you be able to do with that energy if it wasn’t tied up in defending you?
Counselling is a relationship in which you may get the chance to start again.
How do you know your counsellor knows their stuff?
It is very hard to know without working with them. Trust yourself, if there are things you don’t like about your counsellor try to speak about them. Your counsellor should be prepared to discuss them openly.
Having the chance to speak in a confidential setting is key to developing a genuine sense of personal freedom. Out of this you may be able to develop a clearer understanding of how your problems have developed, and of what you can do to change the way your life develops.
- Out of these beginnings, psychotherapy and counselling may be the starting point to developing greater insight into yourself.
- To being able to change things and so to release yourself from your present situation.
Contact me to arrange a free telephone consultation to discuss how my approach might help you.