What is counselling about? Trust, Exploration and Joint Interaction
Updated: May 7
People ask me what is counselling about. Some have preconceived ideas about couches and stern looking analysts. Once upon a time, in the days of Freud it was just like that. Things are different now.
Before writing this I googled some definitions of counselling. While the definitions I found were accurate they seemed a bit cold and didn’t really express all of what counselling is. So I thought I would re-write an old blog and try and expel a few myths.
The BACP define counselling as follows:
“Counselling and psychotherapy are umbrella terms that cover a range of talking therapies. They are delivered by trained practitioners who work with people over a short or long term to help them bring about effective change or enhance their wellbeing.” - BACP
A nice definition but it doesn’t tell us anything much does it? It is one of the more academic sounding definitions I found. The NHS has a more user friendly definition:
"A talking therapy that involves a trained therapist listening to you and helping you find ways to deal with emotional issues"
I think this one makes a bit more sense personally.
So, what is counselling about?
Trust At its core it is based on a trusting relationship. Confidentiality is at the heart of this. All counsellors should discuss their confidentiality policy with you. There are a few things we have to report by law which includes terrorism, money laundering and drug trafficking.
Exploration This is a time specifically set aside to explore feelings and situations that might be bothering you. A counsellor can help you explore why you feel a certain way and help you to develop your own resources for dealing with these feelings.
A different perspective During all this exploration the counsellor might encourage you to look at things from a different view point. This can allow you to focus on feelings and experiences with a goal of making positive change., if that’s what you want.
It’s a Process Change doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time. Clients often ask how long counselling will take. That is a how long is a piece of string question to be honest. Some people come with a specific issue and feel they have a better understanding after six weeks. For others it is more complicated and can take longer.
Collaborative This is a journey that we undertake together. As a humanistic counsellor I truly believe that you have your own answers within you and that together we can find them. When people ask what is counselling about I often tell them that it about working towards the needs and goals that the client identifies, not what the counsellor thinks they should be working towards!
No Judgement The therapy room is not a place of judgement, no matter what you bring. If you feel judged by your counsellor I would suggest discussing that with them. If that doesn’t work, find a new therapist!
What counselling is not
The Stereotype It’s not the stereotype of talking to a silent counsellor. As we have mentioned it is interactive and collaborative.
Chatting to a friend Friends are great! Many, many things look better over a cuppa and a chat. That’s not what counselling is. Your counsellor is a trained professional who can help you make sense of the experiences that you bring to therapy
No Advice Counsellors don’t give advice. They help you find your own unique answers. You don’t need to be told what to do. If you think about it, it would be quite arrogant for a counsellor to think they know how to manage your life better than you. Advice can be judgemental and subjective.
Magic Answers Sadly we are all out of magic wands and unicorn dust! There are no magic answers.
Counselling can take time and effort. As much as there are times when I would love to wave a wand and make the pain of the past disappear that isn’t something I can do. I can walk with you while you face the pain and I know from my own experience in therapy that having someone to walk alongside me meant a lot.
Counselling is worth it!
Counselling can be one of the most worthwhile things you can do for yourself. Whether you are wrestling with issues in the present or struggling to over come wounds from childhood, counselling is a safe space to heal and learn.
Please feel free to contact me if you want to discuss this further.
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