I decided to write a short series, partly in response to a recent query from concerned friends and relatives of someone who could really benefit from that which counselling therapy can provide and who is struggling to reconcile ‘himself’ with the possibility; and also for general consumption in an attempt to clarify the practice and to help reduce any stigma that might be attached.
Who is counselling for?
Whether you are considered ‘successful and ‘normal’ or you have an annoying ‘niggling’ emotional issue that is interrupting your life such as a past emotional or physical trauma, issues with relationships at work or at home, self-esteem, anxieties, low-moods/depression, stresses, poor performance… or… well anything at all that is leaving you feeling ‘less than’. What is clear however, is that counselling and associated therapies has relevance to all and is far from exclusive to those in severe and acute crisis.
After all, we seek ‘counsel’ every day!
The above list is far from exhaustive and different therapists may ‘specialise’ and/or provide for differing levels of severity or intensity of illness and the therapy they offer.
Although I have almost two decades of attending to the most severe crises, I have also ‘dealt’ with many challenges that are quick to resolve with some considered listening, effective communications, and perhaps some guidance. However, in the environment I now operate I offer services of assessment and therapy to those I describe as having ‘mild’ to ‘moderate’ challenges, or to put it another way – non-emergency cases (as defined by the assessor).
It’s important to iterate here, that what may appear ‘mild’ to me and other professionals in health and wellbeing – is likely to feel anything but, to the client! If the assessment reveals a more severe concern or a speciality outside of the therapists’ scope of practice – you will be provided ‘signposting’ to appropriate services with information provided to you. This is done with you, for you.
What can I expect?
It is for the ‘client’ to decide if they ‘feel’ comfortable with the service provider they approach – perhaps by considering any information available. Ask yourself the following:
- Is the website professional?
- Was I referred by word-of-mouth from someone who has experience of the providers reputation?
- When I made an enquiry by phone or email, how did the response ‘feel’?
You ought to feel comfortable asking any relevant questions around your expectations or concerns.
I will rarely talk in ‘definitives’ around your challenges until a more advanced stage – so, be wary of the provider who readily states that they will resolve your issues without question! Once you are happy to commit to a proposed initial meeting the next stage is to confirm to yourself that after that first contact, you feel safe and can entrust the person you are considering engaging. This may be easier said than done if you are feeling ‘unwell’.
Once sessions are under way, any good therapist will ask for regular feedback from you around how you feel progress and value is being achieved. This is an ongoing collaboration in which you are the ‘boss’ and for whom the ‘endgame’ is to empower you to manage current – and any further related challenges with a collaborative and where achievable, sustainable strategy.
How long will I need counselling?
Understandably, this is one of the most commonly asked questions. After something between one and three sessions it should be much clearer to the therapist the challenges that need to be addressed and how severe or mild they are, and how well the collaboration is working. It is common to resolve a single challenge with a client in just 1-2 sessions, but it is also an unknown quantity until all relevant matters have been ‘unpacked’.
Some therapists will work with analysis of the clients past ‘in-depth’…
…others may focus on the present and this, and other aspects will be determined by the dynamics of the conditions encountered, the client, and the skill of the therapist. The client will ultimately decide when therapy ends, with the support of the therapist.