At a time when anxiety, depression and chronic stress are on the rise, many more people are seeking out counselling.
There are immediate issues affecting our day to day lives because of Covid-19. For example, how we’ve had to adjust our work/life balance, caring and parenting responsibilities, health anxieties, the loss of loved ones, money worries and much, much more.
When things start piling up, it’s essential to lean on loved ones for support. However, sometimes speaking to a professional is needed and can be really beneficial.
For some people this can be quite daunting. Going through the process of deciding to seek counselling and booking in can make people nervous. For those who haven’t had counselling before, they often have a lot of questions around what it is, how it can help and what to expect.
Some clients arrive through our doors feeling anxious about the appointment or have already made their mind up that it’s not going to “work” – it’s quite common to feel this way. However, the majority of the time, these very same people say they feel lighter by the end of the first session and confidently arrange their following sessions with ease.
So, we wanted to help those who have hesitations around counselling by providing more information. Hopefully it will help to ease anxieties and bust some myths around what counselling is, what is isn’t, how it works and how it can help you start to really tackle what’s going on.
Counselling is lying on a sofa and talking about my childhood
If you take issues relating to your childhood, growing up or your family to counselling, the counsellor may encourage you to talk about these in more detail. Or, if a past relationship or experience from any point in your life is affecting your current reality, it can be useful to discuss this to help address more “present” things going on.
However, the most important thing to know is this – it is your choice. You do not have to rehash the past and distant memories if you don’t want to. Counselling can be entirely tailored to what you need and the focus is always on what you want to discuss.
Also, most counselling is conducted sitting in chairs, or currently – via Zoom or phone. So, if you want to lie on a sofa… you technically can but it’s not a requirement.
Speaking to my friends works just as well
As a relationships charity, we are huge champions of talking to those around you and having a circle of support - it’s essential for mental wellbeing and strong relationships.
However, what you get from counselling will be very different from these conversations. A counsellor is a trained professional who will be able to help you contextualise what is going on and has specialist skills to help navigate the issues you’re facing. A counsellor also provides a consistent and independent space just for you – it is judgement free and you do not have to censor yourself. This means you can speak about how you’re really feeling and even about the people in your life if you want to, without worrying how it might impact that relationship. The counsellor will still be there for you.
It’s expensive and could go on forever
Some counselling can be expensive, but it really doesn’t have to be. Some services offer free support and with our service, we adjust the pricing depending on income and each individual’s situation.
Counselling is also not designed to “go on forever”. Whilst some people choose to continue counselling for many months to years, that is their choice and it really does depend on each individual situation. You can specify what you want and if your aim is something short-term and solution focused, the counsellor will work with you on this. Most people we see work with us between 5-10 sessions on average.
Counselling didn’t work before
A lot of people feel this way and it’s completely normal, particularly if you didn’t click with your counsellor or were left feeling deflated after your sessions.
It’s important to remember - just because you didn’t find one counsellor helpful, it doesn’t mean this will be the same with another. One benefit we like to offer is flexibility – if you aren’t clicking with your counsellor, you can request to move to another. Whilst your counsellor is not there to be your best friend, the relationship between you and your counsellor is important and should be one you feel positive about, which is completely possible if you’re willing to try again.
It’s also possible that maybe last time you had counselling, it wasn’t the right time for you. Counselling requires you to show up, be honest and be committed to working through things – we don’t always have the time or headspace for this and that’s ok. If you’re honest with yourself and can commit to your sessions, you will find you get a lot more out of it.
The counsellor will tell me what to do & fix all my problems
Counselling cannot fix all your problems for you. Unfortunately, counsellors don’t have a magic wand to wave to make things better. Like we said above, you have to put in some effort to get the most out of your counselling and if you do this, you’ll likely find that you are very much addressing your problems and seeing results.
Also, counsellors can’t tell you what to do. They cannot say if you should pick option 1 or option 2, their job is to present both options to you, talk through those options and give you the space and tools to help you pick for yourself. A counsellor can also then support you with the outcomes of your choices and reflect on the decisions made. But remember – they cannot pick for you.
The counsellor will judge me
Counsellors are trained professionals who lead with compassion, empathy and are there to ask questions, including sometimes challenging questions you may struggle to ask yourself. However, they are not there to judge what you say or what you do. They will see many people, from all walks of life and have very much “seen and heard it all”. An essential part of the practice is that the space is judgement free and confidential.
The counsellor will tell other people what I’ve said
Any qualified counsellor or organisation will provide you with detailed information about privacy and confidentiality before you begin sessions. You’ll have time to read this and ask questions about it but in a nutshell – unless you are a danger to yourself or someone else, counselling is 100% confidential.
Counsellors and organisations do not share your personal details, for example your name, address or what you say in sessions with other people – be it their own friends, family, or other counsellors. Like a judgement-free space, a confidential space is a foundational block of the practice. The only time a counsellor may discuss you outside of the counselling room is in “supervision” where counsellors are able to share best practice with one another and get support. This ultimately means they can better support you and it is always 100% confidential with no names given and full anonymity guaranteed.
If you ever feel concerned about confidentiality, simply ask your counsellor or the organisation you’re working with – reputable places will be happy to answer your questions.
In couples counselling – the counsellor will take sides
A tale as old as time for relationship counselling… the worry that the counsellor will “prefer” one person in the couple over the other or “take their side”, leaving one person feeling to blame.
Relationship counsellors have had advanced training in working with couples and learn how to remain impartial and share the space between the individuals, so all voices are heard. They are also trained in navigating complex issues, opposing ideas and ‘untangling’ the context of the relationship. These counsellors also know that “taking a side” or playing the blame game is unproductive and won’t get the sessions very far, so they won’t travel down that road and they’ll avoid letting you go there too.
Ultimately, you and your partner are not the clients. The relationship is the client and you should see and feel this when working with the counsellor.
I only need counselling if things are really bad or I’m at breaking point
In the same way we take care of our bodies, we need to take care of our minds. Counselling is for anyone, at any point. Some people only seek support when they feel their issues piling up, or when they’ve tried everything else they can think of. However, whilst counselling can help you when you feel “overloaded” or you’re not sure where else to turn, it’s also a great thing to do before you get to this point. Counselling can support you with life’s general ups and downs or prepare you for bigger life changes. For example – coming to counselling before making a “big” life decision such as having a child or moving jobs. Or it can be useful as a check in with yourself or your relationship to ensure you’re where you want to be and feeling healthy in yourself.
If I go to counselling it means I’m not strong enough to deal with things on my own
Some people worry counselling isn’t for them as they’ll seem “weak” or “should” be strong enough to deal with things on their own – this is absolutely not the case. Life happens and we all need a little help at one point or another. The stigma attached to seeking support has reduced in the past few years and many people will have been to a counsellor at one point or another in their lives. It also takes a lot of courage to go to counselling and begin working through what’s affecting you – it’s brave and requires strength.
Counselling can build your resilience, help you tackle things from the past that are holding you back, struggles with the present or prepare you for the future. It doesn’t need to be scary and you should feel proud for taking some time for yourself. We promise you that your future self will thank you for taking the step.
If you were interested in counselling and would like to know more – we can help.
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