Why is my relationship with my counsellor so important? #2
Everyone has a story. Your story may seem mundane, or dull to you. That’s probably because you’ve lived it; once when it happened, and maybe hundreds, thousands more times when you reconsidered… What happened? What did I do? What did I say? Why did I react that way? Research shows that each time we remember an event, we actually re-invent it. That could mean that we embellish a little, to make the tale more exciting. It could be that we do the opposite; if we have low self-esteem, there’s a good chance that we could downgrade our offering, diminishing our story making it sound as dull and uninteresting as we feel to ourselves.
But everyone has a story. You have experienced an entirely unique set of events and you have responded to those events in an entirely unique set of ways. Each story and each memory is now a part of who you are today, right now. You could not be the person you are now without those events and memories. The therapist who is right for you, will hear your stories and will connect with them and in so doing, will connect with you.
One of my favourite birthday cards last year, was a cartoon of someone struggling in the water, a Collie looking on, and the person shouting ‘Lassie! Get help!!’ The next frame shows Lassie lying on a couch, a Freud-like character sitting at her side taking notes with plenty of certificates on the wall. Lassie got help. I love this card because aside from its simple pun-intended representation of therapy, it is a great reminder of one of the greatest reasons for therapy; communication.
An essential of human life, communication, comes in many forms, speech being just one. For many, signing is their primary method of communicating, and for all of us, our bodies form a large part of our communication, even when the movement in it is limited. A famous example being Stephen Hawking, who is almost entirely paralysed, but is able with his facial expression to communicate a huge amount to supplement his equally famous electronic voice.
Our language is so full, and nuanced, and rich that it can be easy for us to assume that we really understand what is being said. But that assumption can find us left alone in deep water when actually, we have got it wrong, or have been misunderstood. One of the jobs of a counsellor is to ‘reflect back’, to work with your language to ensure that s/he is able to understand you, what you are really saying and most importantly, your feelings, as closely as possible. Reflecting back does not necessarily mean just repeating your words to you; it is honing, homing in, refining and finding out precisely what is – and also important, what is not – meant by the words you have used. It is getting as true an understanding as possible, of your story; of you.
Achieving that understanding with another, is one way in which we can start to feel less alone with our problems, or simply, less alone. This is another reason why your relationship with your counsellor is so important.
“Lassie get help” 2012 – 2015 Danny Shanahan.
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About Fiona Goldman
I work in private practice & at a men's prison in Manchester. My background includes work in alternative therapy and midwifery. I am fascinated by relationships in general, and the one between a therapist and client in particular. No therapist can be right for everyone; there are many on this directory; I hope you find the one who is right for you.