18 Things You Might Want to Know About Counselling

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1. ‘Is this the right time?’ You might be considering counselling but are waiting for the ‘right time’, when you feel ready and robust enough to take that plunge into the unknown. Often this ‘right time’ is a fiction and you could end up passing weeks, months or years waiting for this moment to arrive. It is very usual that contacting a counsellor may bring about anxieties and fears. You may also feel embarrassed or ashamed at the thought of talking about your life. Your counsellor understands this though and will recognise the courageous step you have taken to come along to the first meeting. They will work to create a relationship with you, where you feel safe and you can begin to open up.

2. The value of the relationship. The counselling relationship is all important for your experience of counselling. However skilled, knowledgeable or qualified your counsellor is, if you don’t feel able to talk to them, your progress in therapy may be limited. Counselling involves looking at the relationship between you and your Counsellor, including working through any issues that arise.

3. ‘I just want to feel better’. Often in counselling, you might feel worse before you feel better. This happens commonly and is a helpful part of progress (although you may not feel it at the time). You may have buried away some feelings, so now you are talking about them, they feel raw and overwhelming. Your counsellor will support you with empathy and a non-judgemental approach to help you feel safe to open up

4. ‘Who am I?’ In counselling, you don’t have to pretend anymore that everything is okay. You might have been working hard to put on a coping front in your relationships. You can begin to find out who you are and what you think. You can begin to understand yourself and appreciate your values more fully.

5. ‘I just want to be told what to do’. Your counsellor won’t tell you what to do and you might feel very frustrated about this at first. Rather they will help you listen to your own voice and help you develop this more strongly.

6. ‘My counsellor has annoyed me’. You might experience different feelings towards your counsellor throughout the therapy process. At times you might feel angry or irritated. You may want to please them. You may enjoy the experience of having someone really listen to you for the first time. This variation in how you feel is entirely normal. Feel free to talk through these feelings with your Counsellor.

7. Length of sessions. The counselling hour is 50 minutes. On occasion, you may worry about filling the time. Other times, you may wish you could have longer and not want the session to end.

8. ‘I want to know my counsellor’s opinion’. The counselling session is about you. Your counsellor may disclose mindfully information about themselves, but only if they feel this is going to be particularly relevant or helpful to you. As a consequence, you will probably learn very little about your counsellor’s life, thoughts, opinions and actions.

9. ‘What I imagine’. You might wonder about what your counsellor is like outside of therapy and wish you knew more about them. This is also a normal reaction – it is not often we reveal so much of ourselves without the other person reciprocating!

10. ‘Why isn’t this working?’ You may get frustrated that counselling doesn’t seem to work like revising for an exam or learning a language. Working with emotions can be somewhat unpredictable and the path can be complex and changing. You might wish for a magic wand or if someone would just tell you what to do, but unfortunately it just doesn’t work like that!

11. ‘How will I ever cope when therapy ends?’ You may fear the end of counselling and how you might cope alone. Your counsellor will work with you towards the ending though and support you in gaining more autonomy and independence.

12. ‘But I came to talk about my XYZ’. You may go to counselling for one problem and then find yourself talking about something else entirely along your journey. Counselling can take surprising twists and turns. Often there are deeper, underlying issues that underpin the issue you first brought to therapy.

13. ‘I want to run away’. You might want to run away from counselling when things get hard and tricky. Be kind to yourself if this happens. You will not be the first person to experience this by a long way. If you feel able, talk to your counsellor about these feelings and you can work through them.

14. ‘I didn’t know I could feel this much’. You may laugh, cry, rage, envy, worry and more all in the process of counselling.

15. Vulnerability. Becoming vulnerable and expressing your whole self in the safety of counselling can be a transformative experience as you begin to gain self-acceptance. It possibly will feel scary too, as this is unexplored territory.

16. ‘I have to do homework!’ Some counselling may involve homework tasks, written assignments or record keeping.

17. Building resilience and emotional strength. Having counselling can provide building blocks of resilience and coping for the future. You will hope to gain better self-awareness; improved emotional intelligence; problem-solving skills and a far greater understanding of the self. These benefits will ripple into your life and all your relationships.

18. Look back to see how far you have come. Change may not be as fast as you would like. Only when you look back, might you appreciate the journey. Change is not always comfortable but can bring about new beginnings and fresh, more productive ways of living

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