What is counselling?
Counselling generally facilitates change. Most people seek counselling because they are feeling lost, stuck, confused or dissatisfied with life in some way; they are smart enough to know they don’t have to feel this way and they have the courage to seek assistance. Counselling presents the opportunity to hear yourself think ‘out-loud’. The counsellor functions as an objective, unbiased sounding board to help one become aware of desires, needs, motives, thoughts and perceptions that are influencing the behaviour, thoughts and feelings that keep us feeling lost, stuck, confused or dissatisfied.
Counselling assists people in examining what’s happening to them, within them, and between themselves and others so they can best decide what they want to change, what they can change (because lots of what we ‘want’ to change aren’t things we ‘can’ change), how to initiate this change, as well as how to maintain the change. I believe one of the jobs of the counsellor is to help people “clean off their glasses”. Sometimes our perspective becomes narrowed, blurred, obstructed or distorted in some way, in my work I provide a comfortable space for people to explore their circumstances, connect with their inherent resources and start moving their life in a different direction.
What counselling isn’t
Counselling is not advice, it is dialogue. My approach is one of collaborating with clients, we work together to help you move to where you want to go. If you don’t know where you want to go, we can explore that too.
The client presents information and together we explore ideas and reflections about that information, this usually includes broadening the perspective, exploring patterns, identifying what isn’t working, opening up alternatives, challenging the unreasonable, re-framing the negative, just to name a few aspects of the process.
The client knows themselves well and is the expert on their experiences, therefore counselling is designed to help you discover or re-connect with your ‘self’: your desires/motivations, your sense of meaning and purpose, in order to help you make the changes that will contribute to a greater sense of well-being or satisfaction with life.
I believe people often avoid counselling for three main reasons:
(1) Misconceptions about the nature of the process, concern they will have to talk about things they don’t want to, will be told what to do, or judged, criticized or shamed in some way. My orientation is one of collaboration, the client leads the way, you set the pace and the bring the content you wish to explore in a safe, respectful and supportive environment
(2) Concern that seeking support is a sign of ‘weakness’ – my perspective is that of the ‘heroic client’, it is the wise and the brave who are willing to ask for help, recognizing they don’t have to suffer and that there is no shame in asking for a ‘helping hand’ or a ‘leg up’ in getting unstuck.
(3) Concern about ‘opening a can of worms’ or ‘stirring up discomfort’. I offer that whatever you’ve lived through, you’re still here, you’ve already come through it. The counselling process can help take the ‘charge’ out of those difficult life experiences, so you carry them in a different way, they have less impact on you. Managing emotions is a skill we have to learn, and many didn’t have the opportunity to learn those skills. Some have learned how to survive, which was adaptive and necessary at the time, but those same skills being used now have outlived their usefulness, or have become maladaptive. Learning how to manage emotions, soothe yourself, or change the direction of your thinking can be a very empowering experience, recognizing you don’t have to be at the mercy of your emotions, or your ruminating self-talk. Managing emotions helps people shift from ‘surviving’ to ‘thriving’. I have many resources to share regarding managing emotional discomfort and distress, please don’t let that hesitation hold you back from accessing services.