Do counsellors have life all sorted out?
Training as a counsellor, I remember vividly the different teachers I had along my training journey. I viewed these teachers as perfect pillars of emotional intelligence with infinite wisdom. I assumed that they didn’t struggle and had found the answers. They were now immune to the ride of life with its ups and downs. How I longed for the day when I would find this too and possess the tools to effortlessly cope and manage my life with ease.
Alas, I finished my training, and realised, that I had progressed the first few steps along my personal development journey. Becoming a counsellor hadn’t made me immune to experiencing life’s difficulties and I didn’t always cope effectively with problems. Like every human being, I continued to struggle at times.
And if at this point, I thought I had mastered self-perfection in the emotional sense, I would probably have been verging on narcissism with an unrealistically inflated view of my talents. A counsellor in this position, might be vulnerable to inflicting more harm than good.
You may be wondering, if counsellors are flawed too, how can they help you?
1. Therapy is time for you
A counsellor has been trained to listen to your unique story, helping you explore your inner world and make sense of it. They have learned the skills to be present with you, their client in the moment, putting aside their own concerns and worries.
They offer a space that is confidential, non-judgemental and accepting. So as you develop trust in your counsellor, you can bring the parts of yourself into the therapy room that might be difficult to talk about in day-to-day life.
2. Counsellors have developed self-awareness
Most counsellors undergo personal counselling as part of their training which enables them to develop proficient self-awareness. Your counsellor will usually be acutely aware of the baggage they bring and will have worked on this rigorously, enabling them to keep personal issues separate from their relationship with you. This enables the counsellor to be fully present and empathic to your concerns.
All counsellors have supervision to regularly talk about client work and to gain a second opinion or feedback to improve or better their services. This enables a constant monitoring of quality and also safe-guarding of clients.
4. Ongoing development
Most counsellors see their development as a lifelong journey and have a sense of duty and commitment to further work on the self. They will continue to improve their knowledge and understanding of client work through training courses, reading books and learning with peers.
5. Personal experience
Some counsellors have personally experienced difficulties in the past and have then used this as a motivator to work in counselling. They bring this understanding and compassion to their practice, whilst also acknowledging that everyone’s personal experience might be different.
Counsellors are trained to recognise when they need to take a break from therapy to focus on life outside. Sometimes this happens, with a bereavement or trauma or life change. A counsellor will aim to look after themselves emotionally and physically, so bringing energy and presence to be with you, their client.
7. Embracing the flaws
If you can remind yourself regularly that your counsellor is really not perfect, you can gain reassurance and confidence from this. Maybe ‘getting completely sorted’ isn’t the realistic endpoint anyway.
Rather it is about understanding yourself better and getting to know ‘you’; discovering the parts of yourself that you may have hidden and making peace with these; naming and managing your emotions more effectively and becoming kinder and more compassionate towards yourself and others.
Your imperfect counsellor can support you in learning better ways of coping which can help significantly in reducing depression, anxiety, eating disorders and other conditions.
About the author
Harriet Frew is a counsellor, blogger, writer and enthusiast in supporting people with eating disorders. She has worked in the NHS; private practice and in the voluntary sector; working in the field since 1999. Harriet now works privately in Cambridge and London.
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