Counselling is basically about intense talking and listening. It is a facilitative process whereby individuals come to terms with their own thoughts and emotions. It helps people to resolve denial, guilt and shame. It enables people to become ‘unstuck’, to make important changes in their lives and to realise their potential. It makes connections between past events and current patterns of behaviour. Going to get professional help or indeed asking for such help may be a scary step for someone with all sorts of associated fears and anxieties. It can equate to admitting that your own efforts to sort out your problems have failed.
People sitting with a Counsellor can have all sorts of thoughts in their heads and emotions in their hearts. Does he like me? Is he disgusted with me? Will he believe me? Will he laugh at me? Does he think I am stupid? Are my troubles trivial compared to what he normally hears? Should I tell him that? Will he be offended if I use bad language?
As a Professional experienced Counsellor please remain assured that my only focus is on the ways I might be of assistance to you. There is no need for embarrassment or shame as difficult issues will have been presented before and you will not be judged in any way.
Counselling can evoke memories too that are very painful but may have been buried.
If there are such issues in a person’s life, they are affecting them at some level and in certain cases represent a major stumbling block to getting on the right road to recovery.
Most Counsellors will tell clients to ask if something is unclear and should know when something is not properly understood. The Counsellor will typically ask ‘do you understand what I mean by that’? and ‘how do you feel about’ — the latest comment? If there is a follow-up session and something was said previously that you did not like or understand you should ask at the next session for clarification.
What might you look for from counselling in general?
I want to assure people that good counselling help is available. However, be clear that we are talking about a professional service which is bound, by the ethics of professional associations, to ensure that it is indeed ethically appropriate. If you are not satisfied with any aspect of counselling you have the right to complain and such a complaint should be taken very seriously by the Counsellor concerned. It will certainly be considered very thoroughly and processed if it is formalised and sent in writing to the relevant professional body.
There are all sorts of rules of engagement and boundaries that the Counsellor must adhere too.
The basics that you are entitled to, and which would be universal ‘rules’ for most
professional accrediting bodies are as follows:
When being counselled you should:
- Be seen in a private area where your conversation is not overheard.
- Be treated with respect, common courtesy, a non-judgmental approach, and controlled emotional involvement.
- You should not be shouted at, or ridiculed.
- You should be listened to intensely.
- Be allowed to request to see any notes that are taken.
- Be entitled to confidentiality and have any limits to that confidentiality properly explained.
- Ask questions about the terms and conditions and enquire about the Counsellor’s particular approach, experience and qualifications.
- Know that you can walk out if you are not happy.
- Discontinue sessions if you are dissatisfied in any way.
- Be furnished with a receipt.
- Have appropriate washroom facilities available.
You should always check if the Counsellor you have selected is accredited to some reputable professional organisation. All such organisations ensure that their members adhere to strict codes of conduct and it is important to remind you that they also all have ‘Fitness to Practice’ committees which investigate complaints. Inquire about the therapist’s training background and professional qualifications. How much experience, has this person and in what areas? Also ask about professional insurance.
Sometimes the therapist will recommend more specialist forms of help and should be able to provide you with recommendations if so.
You may be asked to do some written work and/or to read some literature. Perhaps the most important aspect of counselling is the support that you receive in an ongoing way.