What is counselling like?

Counselling is a joint and active experience for both you and your counsellor

If you google “What is counselling” you’ll get thousands of different explanations but it seems to me that not many of them will give you a true feel for the process, the experience.

Counselling explanations will talk about empathy, about being non-judgmental and accepting and genuine and it’s all very, very true but what does it tell you about a counselling session? What’s it like?

In one way it’s like a couple of people working on a car engine that’s not working at its best. They’re sharing thoughts and ideas about what’s going wrong, each of them asking: Did you notice that? Could this be important? Maybe it could be useful to think about that? Do you see how this seems to be related to that?

Maybe I know a bit more than you about the sort of things that can go wrong with engines but I don’t know exactly how your engine works. It’s yours and they have different strengths and histories and work in different ways, but maybe I can help you to discover things about yours that you weren’t aware of.

Whilst we’re working on this together, you might take the opportunity to express your anger or your frustration or your despair, or you might even find the opportunity to laugh about some of the things that you have already tried or done to fix things. You’ll feel better for it and at some point you might possibly begin to see a way forward that will help you to clarify the outcomes that you’re looking for and move you towards them

Maybe those two people are not looking to fix a problem but rather wanting to improve the performance so it can be the engine that one of them wants. Perhaps the first thing to be clear about is what you’re trying to achieve, what is it that you want and why do you want it? Could you get the same satisfaction, contentment or happiness in another way that might be easier or better for you?

So counselling is an active process. You don’t just sit there waiting for somebody else to tell you what your answers are. It’s a guided exploration but one where you have and hold the responsibility and the power to decide. Along the way we might share thoughts about strategies that you can use to deal with anxiety, anger, grief or other feelings and emotions. Maybe I can help you to find some insight but neither I nor any counsellor can tell you what to do. You decide.

Often you don't need to decide anything, just to talk about things and try to make sense of them, or let go of some stuff and that can be enough. That's okay too, whatever brings you peace.