What is counselling?
Counselling is an umbrella term for talking therapies, where you are provided with a safe and supportive environment to share what is troubling you and are listened to in a way that helps you understand yourself better. The aim of counselling is to help you find more effective and satisfying ways of living your life.
Counselling is not like talking to a friend. Counsellors are impartial and will not usually offer advice, instead, giving you a fresh perspective to help you gain clarity about what you are dealing with while developing coping strategies. It's often easier to talk to a professional than a friend or family member as your counsellor is not personally involved in your situation. They can offer impartial empathy and compassion and will not take what you say personally or judge the content.
The main forms of counselling include:
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT)
Person Centered Therapy
Who can benefit from counselling?
Anyone who is willing to accept help and able to look at themselves and their issues honestly and attentively can benefit from counselling.
You may go to counselling because you are distressed and seeking help with a specific problem. But you do not have to be in crisis to attend counselling sessions. Counselling is also very useful to simply gain greater confidence and move forward with your life more effectively.
Of course, you must be willing to commit to sessions and be mindful that, although it can be very rewarding, change is not always easy.
What issues are suited to counselling?
Counselling can help you deal with a wide spectrum of issues from day-to-day worries and stresses to distressing and traumatic events such as the loss of a loved one or a relationship breakdown. Counselling can also aid with long-term psychological challenges like depression and anxiety or past trauma.
Counselling isn't just for your private life but can also help you with your career, workplace stress, assertiveness, achieving a work-life balance and making better decisions.
The relationship between you and your counsellor is one of the most important factors in the effectiveness of your counselling sessions. The aim is to build a relationship based on trust with your counsellor and feel able to confide in them about your feelings and emotions.
A qualified counsellor is trained to listen with empathy and openness to all you have to share. All of the counsellors at Hear2listen have considerable professional experience supporting clients with the problems they are facing. They are not there to judge you or force you to take a particular course of action. Instead, they help you develop a better understanding of yourself and others so that you can make positive choices for yourself.
What does counselling look like in practice?
At the first meeting your counsellor may explain factors like the length of the session (50 minutes), the reasons for the need to commit to weekly sessions (it provides you and the therapist with a contained space in which to work consistently) and the cancellation policy. It's important to be on time for your counselling sessions, because they will still end at the agreed on time even if you are late.
During a session you are likely to be encouraged to explore the problems you are facing and express your resulting emotions and thoughts. It is not like idle small talk, nor is it like being interviewed with questions. Your counsellor places his or her full attention on you, asking relevant things about what you are sharing and, makes sure that they have understood what you said while still allowing silences for you to reflect.
There is no 'typical' therapy session, or standard way of working. Some therapists (particularly CBT counsellors) set an agenda for each session and will review progress with you at regular intervals, so as to identify and acknowledge your progress. They may also give you 'homework' to do or things to think about outside of therapy to ensure that your progress continues between sessions.
Counselling is a very personal process and it is important to acknowledge that there will be times during your therapy where it is necessary to talk about uncomfortable and painful things. Whatever you say in the counselling session is, however, confidential (subject to legal and ethical exceptions and the fact that a therapist will have a supervisor monitoring them) and counsellors will offer guidance and support to help you through this process.
You may be offered counselling as a single session or as a short-term course of sessions over a period of weeks or months.
As for where and how the sessions are carried out, counselling can come in different formats, including:
Individual counselling (face-to-face)
Email / internet / online counselling
What results can you expect from counselling sessions?
Each person has their own unique experience of counselling and your results will, to an extent, depend on you, what you want to achieve from the experience and the commitment you make to the counselling process.
In general, results include, but are not limited to, a greater understanding of yourself and others, a clearer perspective on your life, clarity on what you would like your future to look like and how to move towards this, an understanding of what makes you happy, how to make positive choices and a better ability to handle stress and anxiety.