Many people are unsure about what counselling is and what it has to offer. This article should help you learn about what counselling is, whether it might suit you, and how to decide which counsellor to work with.
Counselling is the chance to talk in private with someone who will really listen and try to understand you and who will not judge you or tell you what to do. It can be a great relief to talk to someone outside your situation who will not be hurt or upset by what you say. Sometimes the people closest to you may not understand, or you may feel that you don't want to burden them with your worries. Or they may be part of the problem.
Counselling can also at times be a painful process as thoughts and feelings surface that may have been kept hidden for some time. Most clients decide that it is worth the struggle because once these thoughts and feelings have been dealt with they usually lose much or all of their power to hurt.
Can counselling help you?
Some issues that counselling may help with are:
- Bereavement and other losses
- Relationship problems
- Serious or long-term illness in the family
- Suicidal feelings
- Drug and alcohol problems
- Eating disorders
How does counselling help?
There are a number of different theories about how counselling works. However all counselling has the same basic elements:
- Privacy and confidentiality
- Talking to someone who will really listen
- Talking to someone who is not part of the problem
- Getting another perspective on your life and problems
What sort of counselling is best?
There is a bewildering choice of different types of counselling but there is no 'best' form of counselling, so it is worth looking around to find what suits you. Evidence suggests that all type of counselling can be effective, so the type of counselling you choose may be less important than the relationship you have with your counsellor.
Remember, it is always your choice whether to stay with a particular counsellor - if you are not happy you can leave. A good counsellor will be willing to help you to find more suitable counselling if you are not happy with him or her.
Choosing a counsellor
Many counsellors in private practice have a diploma but there are a confusing number of other qualifications possible, including degree courses of various sorts and accreditation to various counselling organisations. If you are not sure what a counsellor's qualifications mean, please do ask.
However, it is just as important that you feel comfortable with the counsellor you choose.
Most people make contact with a counsellor for the first time over the phone. At this point the counsellor should discuss with you the charge for the first session so that you know how much you will have to pay before you start.
Your first meeting with the counsellor is a chance to decide whether you want to work together. Most counsellors are happy to tell you about their qualifications and experience if asked. You will also need to discuss fees for further sessions, if this was not agreed over the phone. Some counsellors are able to offer reduced rates to a limited number of clients although they do need to cover their own costs. However, if money is a problem, it is worth asking about reductions.
In deciding whether to work with a counsellor, the main question to ask yourself is 'Do I feel safe talking about personal issues with this counsellor?'
Trust your feelings. If you don't feel comfortable, then don't agree to work with this counsellor: however good they may be they are probably not right for you.
At the end of the session you may find that you have poured out all your troubles and that you are feeling generally better for being listened to. You may also feel a little irritated or challenged by a few of the counsellor's remarks. If so, then I suspect that that is probably a good sign.
What happens next is up to you. It can feel very nerve racking ringing a counsellor up for the first time. Just remember, you have the right to choose. And somewhere out there may just be the counsellor who will be the right one for you.
By Gina Langridge
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