Before you talk to a therapist or counsellor, it’s natural to want to know what is meant by counselling, how it works and how it can help you.
The human mind works in very intricate ways, with conscious and unconscious thoughts and feelings all influencing each other. Our thoughts and behaviours aren’t just guided by instinct; they’re also affected also by other thoughts and attitudes we have, many of which we might have learned or acquired over time. And some of these thoughts and ways of thinking might negatively affect the way we look at things, and our overall well-being.
In the past, mental and emotional health was a taboo subject, and something to be avoided. But over time, we’ve developed a better and more scientific understanding of the mind. And because of this, there are many ways today in which we can understand and deal with unhealthy ways of thinking and feeling. Counselling is one of those ways.
What is meant by counselling?
Counselling is a type of ‘talking therapy’, which means it encourages you to discuss and explore your problems and feelings. Its objective is guide you in trying to overcome, cope with, or at least come to terms with, your issues.
What does a counsellor do?
A counsellor is a highly trained professional, and will make sure you have a safe and confidential environment in which you can share your thoughts without feeling like you’re being judged. Your counsellor won’t tell you what to do; instead, they will guide you as you explore your feelings and thought processes, and will help you find ways in which to heal yourself. Because of this, counselling session are usually tailored to fit your needs, and won’t use a one-size-fits-all approach.
Types of counselling
There are different formats of counselling. Face-to-face sessions allow you to interact on a very personal level with your counsellor; group sessions allow you to share your thoughts with others with similar experiences; and telephonic and online counselling can be done wherever you are. Whichever you choose depends on your level of comfort, and on the approach that you agree on with your counsellor.
Who can seek counselling, and for what?
Anyone can seek counselling. If you want help with dealing with difficult emotions; want to understand your own thoughts and feelings; want to explore avenues for self-growth; or just want to talk to someone who will listen objectively without judging you, counselling is a good option. Just because you want to see a counsellor doesn’t mean you’re ‘sick’; it just means you’re brave enough to ask for help.
Counselling can help with lots of different issues, from addiction, grief, abuse and health concerns (both physical and mental), to trauma, anxiety, stress, and issues with relationships and self-esteem. If you ever feel like you need someone who is objective and empathetic to help you deal with difficult times, a good counsellor will be just that.
What counselling is not
Keep in mind that your counsellor may not give you concrete advice or a checklist of things to do. They also won’t offer to solve your problems for you. Lastly, most counsellors aren’t psychiatrists (who are specialized medical doctors), and won’t prescribe medicines. Instead, they will help you understand why you’re feeling the way you are, and help you reach a solution.
What to expect from your counselling sessions
Knowing what to expect from your counselling sessions can help you feel more prepared, and can help you get comfortable more easily. It’s important to remember that you counsellor will probably not give you concrete advice or a list of things to do. Rather, they will give you a safe and confidential space in which to share and explore the things that are bothering you, and help you figure out how to work through them. And because proper counselling takes time and consistency, you might need more than one session before you see progress.
Your first session
During your first session, your counsellor will probably ask you questions about why you chose counselling, about your personal history, and about whether you’re experiencing any physical or mental symptoms. They will also establish boundaries regarding what your sessions will and won’t involve. And before beginning on your therapy, they will also ask you to agree to a contract, whether verbally or by signing a document, that explains both your and their legal rights and obligations. Once those formalities have been taken care of, your counsellor with start working on ways they can help you.
Not all counsellors will have the exact same approach to therapy, and it’s completely alright if you’re not comfortable with their particular methods. It’s very important for you to be able to trust your counsellor, and if you think you can’t do that, then it’s perfectly fine to look for another one.
Counselling is worth the time and effort
Counselling aims to help you heal by trying to understand the things that are bothering you, and this involves talking about difficult feelings and uncomfortable memories. This might be painful and upsetting, but it’s an important part of the healing process. While it might be difficult to do this, it’s important to have faith that this process will help you in the long run.
So now that you know what counselling is and what it involves, I hope you are more comfortable with the idea of reaching out for professional help. Remember, though, that counselling isn’t a quick fix, and needs effort and consistency, both from your counsellor and from you. But it can help you find a healthier, more positive way of looking at life, and so it’s worth it in the end.