But, will counselling actually help? Really, the answer to this question depends on a few key things. The good news is that all of these things are within your control. Let’s take a look.
1. Your willingness to be honest.
When working with a counsellor, you have to be willing to open up, air your dirty laundry and talk about your feelings, which on face value, sounds really scary. But if you aren’t willing to let your counsellor in, there is a limit to how much they will be able to help you. Let’s dig a little deeper.
When you engage a counsellor, you are inviting them to be part of your team. A team that is committed to moving you from A to B. People go to see a counsellor for lots of different reasons, but the common thread is that you want something to change. Whether that involves changing your situation, your attitude or mindset, your behaviour, your feelings or some other part of your life that is making you feel stuck or uncomfortable.
You don’t have to have all the answers.
At the beginning of your counselling journey, you might not necessarily know what “B” looks like; I mean, you might not be able to imagine what your life could be like if things changed. But, you’re pretty clear that you do want a change.
The other thing you are clear about, is what “A” looks like. Where are you now? How are you feeling? What is troubling you? Describe the thoughts that are keeping you awake at night. What are the niggling beliefs about yourself, your situation, or the people around you, that are causing you to feel unbalanced? This is what you need to communicate to your counsellor, and if you aren’t willing to deep dive into some of this stuff, this is where you might not get as many benefits from counselling.
Help your counsellor help you.
Think about calling for an uber, but not telling them your pick-up address. Or telling your friends that you’ll meet them for dinner, but not letting them know where to meet you. This is exactly what happens when you aren’t willing to let your counsellor in. It’s difficult to help someone change, if you don’t know where they are starting off.
So, will counselling help you? Step 1 is being upfront and honest.
2. Finding the right therapist for you
This is so important. After all, if you aren’t comfortable with your therapist, how on earth will you feel comfortable opening up to them? Finding a counsellor is a little bit like dating. It doesn’t always result in a good match on the first try, but there are a few things you can do to speed up the process and have more success in finding a counsellor who meets your needs. Here are my tips:
Think about what you are looking for in a therapist.
Now is not the time to be politically correct. If you would prefer to work with a man, go for it. Want to work with a woman? You do you. Is there a specific type of therapy that you’re interested in? Would you prefer to do face to face counselling, or would telephone or Skype counselling make you feel more comfortable? Want someone who includes spirituality in their counselling, who has experienced what you are experiencing, or has similar values to you? There’s someone out there for you. And not all counsellors are for everyone.
Embrace the online age and do your research.
Yep, the internet is a beautiful thing and it can give you a great opportunity to get a feel for a counsellor before you even talk to them. Now, let’s be clear. I am not talking about stalkerish behaviour – that is not at all appropriate. But, if your potential counsellor has a Facebook page, Instagram account, YouTube channel, website or other online platform, go and check them out. What type of information do they share? How do they communicate? Do they engage with their followers? Does their approach resonate with you? Go with your gut – if a counsellor seems to tick all the boxes, it might be time to get in touch with them.
Don’t just rely on word of mouth.
Of course, word of mouth can be amazing. Especially if you are looking for a new fridge or microwave. But like I have mentioned, not all counsellors are for everyone and what suits your Aunty’s next-door-neighbour’s cousin’s ex-husband, might not suit you. If you do have a counsellor recommended to you, go back to the previous two tips; think about what you are looking for in a counsellor and check them out online. Do they resonate with you?
Don’t be discouraged.
As I said, sometimes it takes a couple of tries before you find a counsellor you really gel with. And that’s okay. It’s all part of your process. Once you find a counsellor you like, you’ll forget about your journey to find them, as you’ll be more focused on how your future could look.
So, will counselling actually help you? Finding the right therapist is a huge part of it!
3. Your commitment to being open to new ways of doing things.
That old chestnut. If you go into your counselling experience with pre-conceived ideas or you are closed off to new ways of doing things, you may not have the success that you are looking for. Remember when I talked about the common thread in counselling clients being that they want to experience change? Well, I hate to say it, but things won’t change if you aren’t willing to change.
Any counsellor can only facilitate the work that you are willing to do. I haven’t yet met or heard of a counsellor that can magically fix your internal world for you. Sad as that may be, it is what it is. What a counsellor can do is really listen and support you to gain more awareness of how you are in the world, what is within your control and what you can do to ease your experience. A counsellor can also provide the type of support that a ‘good’ parent could provide; who doesn’t need more of that in their life!?
The key here, is support.
Your counsellor is not here to tell you what to do. Nor can they wave a magic wand and make all of your problems go away. One thing your counsellor will do, is offer ideas, suggestions and strategies about how you could do things differently to achieve the result you are looking for. But this is when all the puzzle pieces can really start to come together. Or not. Can you imagine yourself saying any of these phrases?
- “I’ve tried that before. It doesn’t work.”
- “That sounds too hard.”
- “I can’t do it.”
- “I don’t want to do it.”
If these phrases resonate with you, it is time to shift your thinking.
You might not have tried it this way before. Sometimes things are hard, but if you push through the resistance you can achieve great outcomes. You can do it – I doubt your counsellor would suggest a strategy if they weren’t convinced you were capable. Why don’t you want to do it? What is blocking you? You need to talk to your counsellor about these feelings!
Do you see where I am coming from? If you really want counselling to work for you, you have to go in with an open mind.
So, will counselling alone fix my problems?
It depends. If you are the type of person that doesn’t share emotional stuff with anyone then it could well do. I’ve seen clients who have held it all in for years and years. The relief that starting to let it all out can bring, is palpable. If there are things that you are doing that are not helping your health and you come along to counselling but are unable to make any changes, then at the very least, you will improve your self-awareness. This will have a positive impact on your life and your relationships. Of course, you will get the wonderful experience of unwavering empathy and support and a committed member of your team, but you might find the same problems going round and round in circles.
Self-care is an important piece
It is worthwhile bearing in mind the self-care quadrant of physical, emotional, social and spiritual energy. Even the best counsellor in the world can’t ensure that you are doing enough to look after yourself in each of these spaces. but counselling can certainly be a big step in the right direction. With the increased self-esteem that counselling brings, clients are often more open to engaging in other acts of self-care, as like that old L’Oréal catch-phrase, they feel ‘worth it’.
Although your counsellor can’t make you take care of yourself, they can offer some useful strategies and ideas about how you can up your game in each of these areas. And as I have mentioned, if you go into counselling with an open mind and a willingness to try new things, you could gain true benefits from engaging in some new, tailored self-care practices.
I’m keen… so, what’s the go with getting started?
Congratulations! Expressing an interest in counselling and a willingness to “do the work” is a mighty step in the right direction. Here are some details:
- Counselling sessions generally go for one hour, although longer and shorter sessions can be arranged in advance.
- Counselling sessions are done face to face, over the phone or via Skype or Facetime.
- The number of sessions you have is up to you. If you have a set idea of how many you will have or can afford, it’s a good idea to bring that up early on. This will help your counsellor to understand and meet your expectations.
- It’s a good idea to commit to 3-4 sessions at the start. If things have been locked up inside for a while, sometimes you can feel worse initially. This happens as you release and process the emotions. But this is only short lived.
- Appointments are usually weekly or fortnightly to begin with. Clients often start off with more frequent sessions, but then have a monthly or bimonthly session as they feel less of a need, but want to keep themselves well.
- Some people get what they need out of one session!
But, what will my friends and family think?
There’s still a lot of stigma around counselling, which I think leads people to believe they have to be in absolute dire straits to access support. This is not the case at all. In fact, there are probably people you know who are receiving counselling, but they just don’t make it public.
In terms of your friends and family; you don’t necessarily have to tell them you are seeing a counsellor. But if you do, talk about it in a positive light. After all, you have taken an enormous step towards making changes in your life and feeling better overall. The most important thing is that you don’t allow the social stigma of counselling to prevent you from attending, or prevent you from taking the action you need to heal. If you had a broken leg, you wouldn’t hesitate to see a doctor; think about counselling the same way.
For some, counselling can seem self-indulgent, especially when trying to fit it into a busy lifestyle. The lesson is though, that if we don’t put ourselves first, we can end up with nothing left in the tank to give to everyone and everything else in our life. I know how difficult it can be to make time for yourself. So, in addition to my hour-long consultations, I also offer express 30-minute sessions via phone or video, to help make it easier to squeeze in to your already packed schedule.
Are you ready to give counselling a try?
If your answer is yes, and you think we could be a good fit after poking around my website, that’s great news. You can click here to book your first session! I look forward to talking to you.