Counselling. What is it?
Counselling is a talking therapy. It is an opportunity to talk to a qualified professional whose aim it is is to listen, without prejudice and with support, in a secure environment. It is usually a short course of treatment for those who have an understanding of their current well-being. Counselling is used for everything from bereavement, depression or anxiety to problems with sexual identity, relationship problems and stress. It is a way of analysing exactly what thoughts you are having, what feelings you are feeling and looking at addressing them by talking them through. It will offer new ways of looking at your thoughts and feelings. It is normally centred on behaviours and behaviour patterns. You are required to be as open as possible with the counsellor.
I want to make a specific point here. I think admitting to having had ‘therapy’ at any point, used to be a bit taboo and there were negative connotations attached. I believe counselling and other talking therapies have come a long way and I know many people who have tried therapy with great success. There is no shame in talking to a professional person. After all, they are the experts.
If you think it’s worth a try then the first step is to talk to your GP. They may have a counsellor attached to your practice. Should you go through the GP practice there will likely be a waiting list. This is not ideal as the waiting lists are usually very long. But it may be worth the wait.
If you are employed and have an occupational health system in place, then it may be worth going to HR and asking to have contact details of the occupational health provider if you don’t already know who it is. You can normally self refer. This is usually confidential and should not have any impact on your job. You may be entitled to a set amount of sessions face to face or you may be able to have the sessions over the phone if this makes you more comfortable.
If you do not have occupational health support, but still want to try counselling and potentially happy to pay privately, then again approach your GP. They should have a list of recommendations. Alternatively, I would recommend visiting the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) website. They have lists of registered practitioners that are in your area.
Going on recommendation is always great. This would be my first choice. If you know of someone who has benefited from counselling and had a good experience with a particular counsellor, then its worth finding out the name and contact details of that counsellor, and making your own appointment direct.
Should you make an appointment, then I encourage you to be open minded at first. It may feel strange telling a complete stranger your deepest thoughts, but if you persist with the therapy, keep regular appointments and be as open as you can, then you may find that even though there may not be one specific issue to talk through, you may be thinking in ways that are not helping your recovery. The counsellor will recognise this and put you on the path for changing the way you think.
I would also say, at this point, you HAVE to be comfortable with the counsellor. If you feel in any way uncomfortable or do not have a sense of trust, then it’s likely it will not work. You will spend too much time considering how you feel about the therapist, instead of speaking openly about your worries and symptoms.
- At first you may think what’s the benefit of talking? How can a simple conversation make things better? It’s normal to think this especially if you are feeling chronically ill with mental anguish. But counselling has proven time and time again to help aid well-being.
- The old saying is that a problem shared is a problem halved. Talking to a professional gives you the opportunity to share even your most private thoughts and feelings in a secure environment.
- Talking to someone who knows nothing of you, who is completely impartial, may be a welcome change from trying to talk to your loved ones and friends.
- You are in control of what you discuss. You may find that you discuss more openly as the sessions go on and your confidence in your counsellor increases.
- Even though some of the talking may make you emotional or upset, this may be a good sign that feelings need to be released. You are releasing these emotions in a secure and sympathetic environment.
- All qualified counsellors are registered with the BACP. I would recommend that you only go with a qualified registered practitioner.
- You are taking a positive first step to aid recovery. You are in control.
- Waiting lists make it difficult to access.
- Some cost could be involved if you go privately.
- Emotions will flare up. But this is part of the process to healing.
- When you start, you’re never sure that the counsellor you have chosen is right for you. So I would always go by recommendation if you can.
I remember going to my first counselling session. It was many years after my breakdown. I went on the recommendation of a friend. The counsellor was very good. At the time, for whatever the reason, I did not feel that I wanted to discuss the past. I think I was afraid of finding something awful. So when I went I just discussed how I was feeling at that time and behaviours that were not helping me to live a full life.
Since then I have seen two other counsellors at different stages of my recovery. Each was very different in their approach, but equally good. They each empowered me to help myself feel better. All have given me a recommended reading list of ‘self-help’ titles. I have always welcomed this. It always gives me a sense of control that I am getting to the bottom of issues. Reading and learning to improve myself is always high on my agenda.
I can only say good things about counselling. I have not really had a negative experience. I did see one lady about 10 years ago. I did not feel a rapport with her, so I didn’t continue with the sessions.
Counselling was not something I did following my breakdown. When I first had the experience of depression and anxiety, I was so bad, that the GP’s figured that I needed medication. And to be honest with you, by that time I was desperate and happily took the medication. They saved my life, and continue to. However, over the years when my mental and emotional health has been a struggle, I have been very glad to talk to a counsellor.
My point of view is this. What do you have to lose? Are you feeling depressed and anxious? Are you grieving, confused with life or really stressed? Then counselling may be just what you need. If it doesn’t work out, you have lost nothing. Just an experience.
Leave comments below my loves.
Onwards and upwards. Kiki xox