What is it?
Counselling is primarily the provision of support to people in being ‘heard’. This might seem quite simple and unnecessary at first glance, however in the often conflicting needs and experiences of everyday life and relationships, it can actually be very difficult to hear and be heard. There are many interruptions to this, among them judgements, opinions, demands, agendas and assumptions. This can create a lot of internal ‘noise’ and ‘clutter’ leading to issues like stress, anxiety, depression, addiction and many others. Such issues or symptoms tells us that all is not well and it can be a helpful option to attend a counsellor, rather than perhaps struggling on and finding that the symptoms are becoming more distressing, disturbing or destructive. Through the process of counselling clients get the space, support and time to look at what they are experiencing, its impact on them and the thoughts and feelings it evokes. Counselling helps with finding clarity and gaining alternative possibilities and perspectives about what is going on. The counselling process offers the opportunity for clients to then formulate decisions and enact possible options for positive change with a consequent return to well-being. How we each are in our experience of the world and its impact on us, is fundamental to our experience of happiness and our quality of life. While Scott Peck says in the first lines of his book ‘A Road Less Travelled’ “Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths.” we do not, however, have to tolerate its difficulties unsupported nor without access to finding hope and possibility.
Who is it for?
Counselling is for anyone and for everyone. It is generally accessed by people who would like to address a specific issue causing them concern. The counselling process supports clients towards resolving and/or managing difficulties that seem to impede them in their lives. The emphasis of counselling is largely on conscious experience and working with what is being felt, thought and perceived in everyday experience in relation to the issue or symptoms presenting. It can be very helpful in supporting people to see their experience from different perspectives, grow in confidence and clarity around decision making and come to an acceptance of possible difficult circumstances that they may not be able to change.
How does it work?
Counselling works in the presence of certain criteria. It is the provision of a safe space, generally a private room and the full attention of another human being, the counsellor, who has the skills, awareness and the personal insight to support the client in a non-judgmental exploration of their issues. Both counsellor and client need to have a shared understanding of the confidential nature of the work and any limits to this. Counselling may take place on a weekly or less frequent basis depending on the working approaches of the counsellor.
Is it successful?
Many studies have shown counselling to have a significantly positive effect and outcome in terms of clients experiencing an improvement in their circumstances and/or symptoms. Some methods are more conducive to measurement than others, and measuring outcomes is also complicated by the confidential and subjective nature of the process itself. This is difficult as there are a wide variety of methods and standards of practice in counselling and as a relational process it is also very dependent on the person of the therapist. In other words if two clients with identical presenting issues were to attend two separate therapists who were using the same approach, it is possible that each client would have a very different experience/outcome. Conversely if these identical clients were to attend two separate therapists who used very different approches it is possible that they could have a similar experience of outcome. The aspect fundamental to the efficacy of the process is your relationship with the therapist and how ‘available’ and able they are to hear you in your experience. This idea of ‘ available’ relates to the counsellors ability to suspend their own assumptions, beliefs and views and to enter your world and be able to hear your experience. This allows the counsellor to notice possible blocks and impediments that may be out of your view and to offer them in way that may help you in identify ways to ease concerns and reduce symptoms and be able to return to an experience of well-being. While you may wish for your counsellor to give their opinions or advice, any such information can impede and undermine the process. This can feel frustrating for clients hoping for a quick and painless solution but the greatest efficacy is found when clients are supported and helped towards finding their own answers and resolution. Remember that the counsellor is also a vulnerable, struggling human being, whose primary ability to support their client comes not from mastering their own struggles but rather having found ways to understand and address them.