Deciding whether you would benefit from counselling can be a difficult decision, remind yourself that you can stop at any point, it isn’t something you have to do if you don’t want to, or for the rest of your life. Sometimes it’s just about giving yourself a little bit of space and quality time to catch up with yourself, consider what isn’t feeling ok, and move through that to a happier place and way of being.
Do you need Counselling?
Life always has ups and downs, very few people are happy all of the time, deciding when the downs become something you need help with can be difficult. Consider:
- Are you thought/feelings preventing you from living the life you want to have?
- Do you feel different about yourself?
- Is it hard to socialise with family and friends?
- Is there about to be, or has there been a lot of change in your life, new job, house move, upcoming marriage, break up of relationships, children growing up and leaving home. Is the change a big one, or are there multiple smaller ones?
- Have you lost something? Or someone?
- Do you need some space and time to be able to talk and explore issues without being told what to do?
- Do you feel hopeless, that you might harm yourself or another? (If you do, you should seek support from your GP as soon as possible)
- How are you sleeping? Is your day impacting on your sleep?
- Are your normal coping strategies becoming an issue in their own right, glass of wine to unwind becoming a bottle, eating excessively, are you using drugs.
- Has something unwanted or traumatic happened?
As you read through the list, did you have a sense in your body or mind of these things relating to you? The ultimate decision as to whether you would like to enter into counselling has to be yours, but it is also ok to change your mind.
What type of Counselling?
Due to media attention around Mental Health, you may have heard of CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy), Psychotherapy or Person Centred Counselling, but there are many more types of therapy out there, take a look at these two links for a more in-depth understanding:
Not all therapies suit all people, it’s important not to try to squeeze yourself into something that doesn’t feel right or that you can’t connect with. Just as it’s ok to change counsellor, it’s ok to change the type of therapy you experience. The only limits really are what is available to you locally. CBT, for example, is one that is readily available on the NHS, it often focusses on changing your thought process in order to experience a better outcome.
Whereas the person centred approach would explore with you what your thoughts and feelings were and encourage you through acceptance, non-judgemental responses and empathic understanding to move through the worst and recognise your own abilities for change, given the right circumstances.
How to choose a Counsellor
First of all, it’s important to check they are qualified and able to practice safely. A good start is to check that they are a registered member of a recognised professional body, the main ones in the UK are:
- BACP (British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy)
- UKCP (United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy)
- NCS (The National Counselling Society)
- COSCA (Confederation of Scottish Counselling Agencies)
- HCPC (The Health and Care Professions Council)
- BPS (The British Psychological Society)
Many counsellors nowadays can be found on web directories and media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Take your time to check out their media profile, how do you feel when you see their photos? Or read what they have written? Does it feel like someone you can connect with?
Consider the practical elements of counselling:
- Distance, too near? Too far?
- How many sessions would you like?
- Cost, too expensive, not sustainable
- The counsellor’s availability and yours, can you fit it into your weeks activities
Consider your personal preferences:
- Are you happy to work with someone that is in training with an agency, or someone that is newly qualified?
- Ethnicity, gender, culture, sexuality, language, disability, age, depending on your life experiences, finding someone that has similar or completely different attributes may be important for you.
It is important to find a counsellor that you feel comfortable enough to work with, shop around and give yourself a chance to get to know them a little first. A lot of counsellors offer an initial free phone call or consultation, this is so that they may begin to have an idea of who you are as well as an understanding about how they might help. It’s also your chance to get a feel for whether you feel comfortable enough to work with them and their style of counselling.
Client autonomy is an important part of counsellor training, so don’t worry about upsetting them if you choose to go elsewhere, good counsellors will appreciate that it just didn’t feel right for you and that’s ok.
It can be helpful to make a note of what you want to tell the counsellor about, so you feel you have given them all the most immediate information. Often people feel overwhelmed and get stuck on counsellors being the professional, but really they are just human beings that want to help.
It’s absolutely ok to ask questions, it’s important that when considering working with someone that there is transparency from the beginning, it’s important to know upfront what you can expect otherwise it might affect the relationship down the line.
What to expect from your Counsellor
You can expect your counsellor to:
- Be transparent about what they can offer and how they work from the outset.
- To facilitate a safe space where you can talk about what is happening for you, free of judgement.
- Treat you with respect.
- Inform you about all aspects of confidentiality, including how your information is stored safely.
- To work in the modality that was initially agreed.
Your counsellor should not proclaim that they can ‘fix’ you, because you are not broken. Emotions and thoughts aren’t like broken legs that get fixed with pins or plaster, instead, they need to be heard and understood, resilience and self-esteem grow from a person’s ability to experience and grow.
Although therapy is usually about moving from a place that doesn’t feel great to a better, happier place. There’s no saying the route it will take, so don’t be worried if some sessions are really difficult, it’s just part of the course, and you’ll get to where you want to be eventually.
Just because you’ve left the session doesn’t mean the work stops, often you may find yourself reflecting for some time after.
Therapists are usually available for your session time only, they will usually answer email or phone call questions if needed. They are not a 24-hour emergency service so if you think you may need crisis support, ensure you have other forms available – i.e. Samaritans, GP, local A&E, Local Mental health crisis number.
Although your therapist has spent many years training and honing their skills, they don’t have the answers you are looking for. This is because they are trained to encourage you to develop your own answers, they will, however, help you to explore all the options and reflect back what they notice so that you make the choice that is right for you.
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