9 things that may surprise you about having counselling

Research shows that the therapeutic relationship is by far the most important factor for counselling 'success'. So make sure that you find someone with whom you feel the potential to develop a comfortable rapport with, and to share vulnerability. You may need to 'try out' a few counsellors to find the right one for you.


1. The therapeutic relationship

2. Not getting advice

You may enter counselling hoping for wise advice and life direction Initially, you may find it frustrating that your counsellor doesn’t tell you what to do. Rather, counselling offers you a safe space to talk openly, reflect and gain self-awareness. Through the counsellor’s empathy and active support, you will begin to trust your own voice and to access your own inner knowledge and wisdom.

3. Feeling overwhelmed by emotions

If you’re been avoiding or burying your emotions under the carpet, when opening up and feeling these in therapy, you may feel flummoxed and overwhelmed. This is not a time to run away and end your counselling, as suppressed emotions need a healthy outlet for healing. It is normal to feel worse before you feel better. So stick with this as part of the healing process.

4. Your counsellor

You may feel a range of emotions towards your counsellor. Therapy will hopefully be a validating and rewarding experience, where you feel fully heard and your feelings are listened to. At times, you may feel frustrated or stuck in the counselling process and this is to be expected. Old feelings may be activated from your past relationships, as you trust and feel closer to your counsellor. This can be challenging to manage but can be talked openly about in the counselling room. It also offers the potential for healing and managing relationships differently in the outside world.

5. Learning that vulnerability is strength

You may feel embarrassed or ashamed for seeking counselling. Many people put off the decision to seek help, feeling they need to be ‘strong’ and cope alone. Sometimes problems cannot resolve themselves without taking the courageous step to seek outside support though. It is a brave and valuable investment in your mental wellbeing, not only for yourself, but for those close to you. Vulnerability is a super-power and certainly not a weakness. It might be hard to grasp this concept, until you have experienced this.

Woman looking thoughtful

6. Different therapy styles

There are different therapeutic styles and approaches in counselling. Some counsellors work short-term, whilst others for longer time periods. Some are more interactive, and skills based, whilst others more reflective and insight focused; whilst others combine both. Do your research to consider which approach might work for you.

7. Unexpected turns in your journey

You may start therapy with a focus on one issue, but then quickly realise that there are deeper or alternative issues to explore. Counselling can take some different twists and turns, and this is not to be feared. You will gain new perspectives and a new level of self-understanding.

8. The gains

Through counselling, you can hope to build emotional intelligence and resilience, and to gain self-awareness and deeper insight. You can learn new coping skills and improve communication in your relationships. You begin to value your mental health and improve self-care and self-compassion.

9. The journey itself

Counselling is not usually a quick fix, but rather a gentle process of learning and unlearning, nudging back and forwards, and navigating the ups and downs towards greater self-understanding. Change is not always a comfortable process but can bring fresh insights and awareness, which can open up the potential for deeper joy and contentment.

Counselling can be worth this investment of personal development and one day you will look back and see just how far you have come.

This article was written by Harriet Frew.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Cambridge, CB1
Written by Harriet Frew, MSc; MBACP Accred
Cambridge, CB1

Harriet Frew is a counsellor specialising in eating disorders and body image. She has worked in the NHS and private practice since 2003, and is passionate about supporting and educating others through therapy, writing and social media.
Instagram: @the_eating_disorder_therapist; Podcast - The Eating Disorder Therapist

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