What is Counselling?
Counselling is a process. It’s a conversation we have about your life, what’s working, what’s not working, how you’re feeling, what you’re thinking about and how you want things to be different. In the process of providing counselling I ask questions, make observations, reflect back what you’ve told me, make suggestions, and provide information and skill development.
My goal as the therapist is to promote self-understanding as well as encourage and empower you to find your strengths in order to make the changes that you’d like to make.
This is a brief description of an interaction that at times can be quite profound. Having had the experience of being a client myself, I can only say that it has felt like a gift. It was a powerful experience of receiving compassion, being truly listened to, and being offered help and hope through some difficult times in my life.
Finding a Therapist
Since seeing a therapist is an important step to take, it’s also important to find someone that you feel is a good “fit” for you. This means finding a therapist that not only has the appropriate experience and credentials, but is someone that you feel comfortable with and that has an approach to change that you can work with.
Research shows in fact that the chances of the therapy being successful are increased according to the strength of the therapeutic alliance – the connection between the therapist and client and the client’s experience of a positive collaboration in therapy.
Myths About Counselling
Coming for counselling takes courage! Here are some common misconceptions about the process, and some further information about how counselling works.
If I start coming to counselling, I will have to spend a LONG time in therapy. Not necessarily. Gone are the days when people met with their psychoanalyst 3 times a week for years on end. On the other hand, I do not have a magic wand to “fix” everything in one session. (Wouldn’t that be great if I did though?)
If you come for a first session and are willing to return, consider coming for 3 or 4 sessions, and along the way I will check in to make sure you are receiving the help that you need. The amount of time people spend seeing a therapist really varies. Ideally we decide together as to how long to meet; it usually becomes clearer in the first couple of sessions what the process might be like.
If I’m seeing a counsellor, I must be crazier than most people. Not so! In fact, if anything you are a step ahead of other people in that you have recognized that you are struggling and are willing to seek some help in order for your life and circumstances to improve. It takes a lot of courage to reach out for help, especially about an area of your life or something about yourself that you are not feeling good about.
We ask for help and seek professional expertise in other areas such as our physical health, our finances, and our career choices, so why not our mental and emotional health? Rather than a sign of craziness, seeing a therapist is a sign of strength and an indication that you are motivated to make changes and to find ways to function better in your life.
The counsellor will somehow find out every one of my deepest darkest secrets, and in fact it’s expected that I share these. No, and no. Counselling is a process that although challenging, needs to feel safe at the same time. It’s my job to guide you through a process of change and growth at a pace that feels ok for you. I find the balance between challenging and encouraging you but not pushing you beyond where you are ready to be.
Counselling is also confidential, so the information that you do share is safe with me. Having been a therapist for over 13 years, I have heard many stories and I continue to be honoured to hear them and amazed by the courage it takes to share them.
I don’t need to pay a counsellor to give me advice; I’ve already got that coming for free from my partner/friend/parent/sibling/co-worker… Support and care from the people in your life is vital to your well-being, and there are times when meeting with a person outside of this circle (someone with training and expertise) will be needed to offer a fresh look at where you are stuck and what you might need to get unstuck.
As a counsellor I will make suggestions or help to strategize a plan of action, but ultimately my goal is to help you access your own strength and resources in order to know what choices to make to feel better mentally, emotionally and potentially physically as well. Getting the perspective and feedback of a skilled, compassionate therapist, and being given a safe space to explore a range of issues goes well beyond advice giving.