How talking helps...
The counselling process is underpinned by one simple activity: Talking. This may seem strange when there are a multitude of approaches and modalities to choose from - from psychoanalysis and humanistic, to integrative and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). The range of choice available can be confusing and perhaps unhelpful.
For me, the counselling process is best explained in the simplicity of dialogue (which all approaches include in some form). Dialogue involves the counsellor and client in a relationship which is free from judgement on the counsellor's part. It involves communication, cooperation and collaboration from both parties, and dialogue begins around the issues brought to counselling. So, how is this different to other relationships?
A counsellor will offer understanding immediately. This opens the door for honesty. In such a relationship, it is possible (given time and at the client's pace) to reach the core of the problem at hand. This is where innermost thoughts and feelings reside. In wider society, it is not always possible to operate with this level of openness. Thus, we leave parts of our 'selves' closed off. Whether the presenting issue is depression, anxiety, grief or anything else, the closed off parts of ourselves seem to contribute to the heavy weights of what someone might be dealing with. And so, counselling (talking therapy) allows someone to access these closed off parts in a professional, boundaried relationship. It is the time - the one hour a week - to put the brakes on and look inwardly to help change the outward forecast.
When people think of counselling, many seem to think of emotion: Crying, and the old Freudian/psychoanalytic lying on the couch scene. In reality, there is much more to the counselling process. When two people come together in genuine dialogue, this can be a refreshing change to the games and politics that many experience in society and external relationships. After all, whilst the counsellor has been trained to some level, they too have to survive in society in the same way - hence a pre-loaded understanding that it isn't easy to talk about what we need to talk about day to day.
Whatever the problem may be, counselling seeks to help you explore and understand, adding context to your problem and allowing you to find a way through. Don't suffer in silence - talking helps.
Claringbull, N. (2010), What is Counselling and Psychotherapy? Exeter: Learning Matters Ltd
Clarkson, P. (2003), The Therapeutic Relationship, 2nd ed., London: Whurr
Winnicot, D. (1965), Ego Distortion in terms of True and False Self in The Maturational Process and the Facilitating Environment: Studies in the Theory of Emotional Development, New York: International Universities Press, p.140–157
Yontef, G. (1988), Awareness, Dialogue and Process: Essays on Gestalt Therapy, USA: Gestalt Journal Press
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About James Sussex
I am a registered member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy and trained at both The Sherwood Psychotherapy Training Institute in Nottingham and the Iron Mill Institute in Exeter, Devon.
I hold a BSc (Hons) in counselling and psychotherapy and have a background in the armed forces. I work privately in Sheffield S1 and S11.