What is counselling?
Counselling falls under the umbrella term ‘talking therapies’ and allows people to discuss their problems and any difficult feelings they encounter in a safe, confidential environment. The term can mean different things to different people, but in general, it is a process people seek when they want to change something in their lives, or simply explore their thoughts and feelings in more depth.
A counsellor is not there to sit you down and tell you what to do. Instead, they will encourage you to talk about what's bothering you in order to uncover any root causes and identify your specific ways of thinking. The counsellor may then look to create a plan of action to either help you reconcile your issues, or help you to find ways of coping.
Counselling does not come in a cookie-cutter format and each session is generally tailored to the individual. There is flexibility within this type of therapy that allows for a variety of counselling formats, including:
Face-to-face - This is when you make an appointment with a counsellor to see them in person, usually at their practice. Face-to-face sessions are one of the more popular therapy formats because they provide an opportunity for you to react to any emotions that arise there and then.
Individual or group - You may choose to see a counsellor by yourself, or if you prefer you could join a counselling group with people experiencing similar issues. Going to a group counselling session can be helpful if you want to discuss your issues with people who are going through similar problems and you may even gain yourself a support network. Alternatively, you may wish to see a counsellor alone to preserve your privacy and concentrate on your own feelings.
Telephone counselling - For some, telephone counselling offers a helpful alternative to face-to-face counselling. This involves talking to your counsellor over the phone instead of in person. This form of counselling can be particularly useful for those too busy to attend face-to-face sessions and can be carried out in the comfort of your own home. This format also tends to be more flexible and can potentially reduce waiting list times.
Online counselling - Some people prefer not to physically speak to a counsellor at all, utilising technology and emailing their counsellor instead. This form of counselling allows you to take the time to think through what you wish to discuss, and many find the act of physically writing their issues down cathartic. Online counselling also offers you the chance to protect your anonymity.
What can counselling help with?
Counselling can be useful for anyone who wants to explore the way they're thinking or feeling further, as well as for anyone experiencing a problem or issue they are keen to resolve. People may choose to speak to a counsellor because they feel they cannot speak to their other half/friends/family about such personal issues, or they may simply wish to speak to a professional with an objective viewpoint.
Common subjects that can be addressed within counselling include the following:
Wherever there is a physical addiction to a substance or activity - there is likely to be a psychological addiction too. Counselling aims to relieve the psychological addiction by exploring the root cause while helping to develop new ways of thinking.
Losing a loved one is a difficult event in anyone's life. The loss can bring up a wide range of emotions including guilt and anger. Some people benefit from speaking openly to a counsellor about their feelings to help ease the process and resolve any remaining issues they may have.
Being the victim of any form of abuse - verbal, emotional or physical - can lead to issues that may affect you all of your life. Counselling can offer victims the chance to seek help from authorities (if appropriate) as well as addressing the psychological repercussions in a safe environment.
Suffering from a long-term illness such as cancer or dementia can turn anyone's world upside down. Counselling can help sufferers come to terms with their illness while offering emotional support and coping mechanisms.
Suffering from a mental health issue such as schizophrenia or depression can feel incredibly isolating. Counselling looks to discuss the feelings that arise in conjunction with these kinds of mental health issues, as well as overcome any personal challenges or frustrations.
Covering all types of relationships, counselling can be used to discuss issues in families, friendships and couples. Problems could involve anything from a poor relationship with a parent, difficulties in a friendship or with a partner, or even your relationships at work.
Whether you've been involved in an accident or you have been the victim of abuse, the psychological impact of trauma can last years after the event itself. In a counselling session, trauma victims are encouraged to explore their feelings regarding the incident and look into how these could be resolved or changed.
Feelings of stress, anxiety and low self-esteem are becoming all too common in today's society. Counselling can offer practical advice for overcoming these kinds of issues, as well as allowing you the space to vent your frustrations and feelings.
The counselling process
Counselling often requires you to discuss upsetting emotions and painful memories. Bringing up these thoughts can feel difficult to start with and initially, you may feel worse. This process is necessary to move forward and in time, you should start to feel better.
To get the most from your counselling sessions you should aim to make them consistent. Some sessions will feel more helpful than others, but it's important to realise that everything your counsellor is doing is designed to help you in the long run, even if it doesn't feel like it in the beginning.
It's also worth remembering that counselling is not a quick fix, and that your counsellor will not be able to tell you what to do. The counselling process requires a strong relationship between you and your counsellor and a degree of effort on your part - together these two elements create a successful method to help you resolve your issues.