What is counselling?
Have you ever thought that you need to go and see a counsellor because you want someone to talk to but don’t feel sure about what to expect?
If you have got a problem going around and around in your head…If you feel emotional…a counsellor could help.
If this is you read on because I would like to introduce you to some aspects of counselling that may help you to decide if counselling is right for you.
It can be difficult to know what counselling is all about. Some people have preconceived ideas.
Perhaps you have seen pictures or movies that give you the impression that you will lie on a couch and talk. Maybe you feel that counselling is only for people with mental ill-health or those people who can’t cope with life. These stereotypes do exist but modern-day counselling is so much more. It can help everyone.
Counselling is quite hard to define as there are several different aspects to it and many different approaches.
Most counsellors in the UK have training that lats 5-3 years. But as counsellors are required to update their knowledge and skills every year, experienced counsellors will have many more years of training and continuing professional development.
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. the aim of counselling is to develop a person’s awareness, to develop insight to the problem and help them either to accept or change the problem.
How do you find a counsellor?
Some counsellors work for agencies and charities. Charities might help with specific problems such as gambling, alcohol or drug addictions.
Some counsellors might be linked to your work especially if you work for a large organisation. So it is worth enquiring through your Human Resource department or health department to see if counselling is available through work. Often counselling provided from work is free to you but the number of sessions is limited.
Some counsellors have their own private practices. You could do a Google search to find online and face to face counsellors. You will also find private practitioners on professional membership sites and in other directories E.g. Counselling Directory
What happens first in counselling?
Counselling starts with getting to know each other and agreeing on the way you will work together. This is called contracting. This gives you a clear picture of what is offered. There are usually terms and conditions so ensuring that the boundaries on working are clear. For example, what happens if you can’t make an appointment, or how many sessions are expected.
If its a private practitioner you will want to know how much they charge, if there are different prices for different times of the day and how long each session might be. Counsellors should explain their terms and conditions and how they work.
So counselling is a therapeutic relationship that has pre-defined boundaries and is governed by:
- the law
- professional bodies, policies and procedures and codes of conduct
- supervision and learning
What do counsellors do?
Counselling is a talking therapy where there is a counsellor who helps someone explore difficult emotions or parts of their life, and one or more clients depending on the type of counselling chosen. It’s a professional relationship that helps a person to feel better and develop. Counsellors usually spend about 50 minutes per session with the client. The number of sessions can vary. 6-24 sessions is common but some more complex problems may require counselling for a few years.
A counsellor will not give you their opinions or advice or prescribe medication. They will help you find your own solutions – whether that’s making effective changes in your life or finding ways of coping with your problems.
Types of counselling
- Individual counselling
- Couples counselling
- Group counselling
Ways counselling is delivered
- Online counselling. E.g. Chat rooms, email counselling, videoconferencing etc.
- Face to face counselling in a private room.
- Telephone counselling.
- Self-directed counselling through online CBT programmes.
Different approaches to counselling
Not all counsellors work in the same way. This is because they will have different training that is underpinned by different approaches.
This means that some counsellors mainly listen, others ask more questions, some add psychoeducation, some explore the past more and some look to the future more. Some counsellors will focus more on the ‘here and now’.
You may hear these different descriptions of counsellors. The way they describe themselves gives you an indication on how they work and their counselling approach.
- Cognitive Behavioural (CBT)
- Solution Focused
- Compassion Focused
There are many, many more approaches to counselling.
Some counsellors use art in therapy and objects such as shells, figures or printed handouts.
Some counsellors work in an office, or a hospital, a school or other organisation. Others work from a room at home or go out for walks with you.
What are the key skills needed by a counsellor?
Counsellors use what Carl Rogers calls the 6 core skills.
These skills include ways to develop empathy, to act in a non-judgemental way, to be warm and genuine towards the client, to focus on the clients needs when the client brings a problem.
A key skill of all counsellors is to listen. Counsellors really listen. They have been trained to actively listen to their clients. So the sessions are more than just having a chat with someone about a problem.
Sometimes it may be difficult to talk but that’s okay as counsellors will support you and help you to express what you are feeling.
Even sitting in silence is okay if that helps you to use the space to work out how things can feel better for you.
What don’t counsellors do?
It’s worth highlighting what counsellors don’t do as some people have the idea that a counsellor becomes their friend and can tell them what to do about a problem.
Counsellors don’t make judgements
If you look different, have different views or feel different in any way counsellors won’t judge you because they want to help you feel better. They won’t make judgements on your decisions either.
Counsellors don’t give advice or direct clients to do things.
Although they may provide guidance by helping the person to explore and understand their emotions.
Counsellors don’t influence people to make decisions.
The final decision will always be made by the client but the counsellor may help them to explore options.
Counsellors don’t offer a chat, It’s not like talking to your best friend.
They don’t offer you tea and cake either!
Counsellors don’t stay with you forever
Although some people need a counsellor for a long time, maybe a few years, many counsellors will only see a client for a few weeks or months..
Counsellors are very supportive. They often offer weekly sessions in a private area. Sometimes they help people by referring on to other agencies.
Counsellors can’t agree to keep everything confidential.
This might seem like a problem because you want to tell them things. Well you can tell counsellors many, many things in confidence. In fact, they do many things to keep your discussions confidential. However, in rare circumstances, they are obliged by law to contact the Police, your doctor or Social Services as they have a duty of care and must adhere to the law. Such circumstances might be if there was a serious risk to you (e.g. high suicidal risk) or others (e.g. a safeguarding risk) or a terrorism risk.
Counsellors will always explain confidentiality when you are first agreeing to work together.
What can counsellors help with?
- Work-related problems
- Health-related problems
- Mental ill-health
- Personal problems
- Changes in your life
- Financial issues
- Family matters
- and much more
If you have been wondering about visiting a counsellor why not telephone or email first and find out more about how they can help you.
Awaken the Change provides brief counselling for adults. Specialising in Stress and anxiety and bereavement and loss. Book a free initial consultation and find out more.