What is counselling?
Counselling is a process where you can explore issues that are affecting you, and learn new skills to create change. They may arise from patterns you learned when you were younger or be an outcome of more recent events. Wikipedia describes person-centred therapy (one aspect of counselling) as a comfortable, non-judgemental environment where therapists demonstrate congruence (genuineness), empathy and unconditional positive regard towards their clients, while using a non-directive approach. In this way, clients can find their own solutions.
When you talk to someone objective who doesn't know you or your story, it can often help you make sense of what has happened to you. A trained counsellor or therapist can offer suggestions and present alternative points of view that can assist you to develop new, more helpful strategies to manage the challenges that arise for you.
It is up to you to commit to the process of change, with the assistance of the counsellor or therapist. It is important that you establish some goals early, so you can both assess your progress.
What is not Counselling?
Counselling is not advice giving, telling you what to do, telling you who to be with
Counselling is not re-traumatising you or making you re-live painful or traumatic experiences.
One of the major benefits of counselling is that what you say in the counselling room is confidential. There are some exceptions to this:
When you or someone else is at risk of serious harm
When children are in danger
When you give permission for your information to be shared (for example, with your doctor or lawyer)
Am I crazy?
Coming to counselling does not mean that you are crazy; just that you have decided to explore new ways of dealing with what life is offering you, or that you know you would benefit from some support in dealing with things. Regardless of the family we grew up in, there is still room for learning new skills such as effective communication, conflict resolution and stress management.
If there are some particularly stressful events happening in your life, or you have experienced loss or trauma, you may feel like you have a tentative grip on your sanity. This is natural and normal and seeking support as soon as possible is a good idea.
How many times do I need to come to counselling?
You may find that one session is all you need for a specific issue. Sometimes ongoing support is required. If you are in crisis, more frequent sessions can be helpful at the beginning, and sessions can then be spread out as you find your strength and resilience once more.
You are likely to lose momentum and motivation if you wait too long between appointments. It is better, for example, to have three or four sessions a week apart, then have a break, than to have 3-4 weeks between appointments.
What if I don't want to talk about some topics?
Your counsellor should respect your desire to discuss what is relevant and comfortable to you. Over time, as you learn to trust your counsellor, you will hopefully feel more comfortable discussing topics that may once have been out of bounds for you.