Getting some perspective
One of the most frequent comments I receive from clients about how counselling has benefited them is: “It’s helped me get some perspective.” They may say this even after as little as a single session.
Many people in the general population feel that they don’t need counselling when they have difficulties to deal with as they can work things out for themselves. They are able to think things through by themselves. Yet perhaps they are missing out on this chance to gain perspective, which typically comes with talking to a skilled helper. So what is it about the counselling relationship which enables this clarity to happen?
First of all, the counsellor has no involvement with the actual situation under discussion, so they have no bias in their point of view. In fact, they aim not to have a ‘point of view’ at all. Their aim is to be a neutral sounding board, which the client can use to work out what they really want, need or feel.
To enhance the effectiveness of this process, the counsellor is careful to avoid being judgemental. It is very unusual in everyday life to talk to anyone who never judges what you say or think, so to experience this in counselling is very powerful and liberating. The client is free to express their true feelings, perhaps for the first time. Clients are sometimes surprised with what comes to light as they do this exploration.
On occasion, a client may find it hard to accept what they have realised. In the presence of a counsellor who is trained to deal with distress, difficult feelings can be processed and contained in a safe way.
The confidential nature of the counselling relationship means that clients have a freedom to express themselves without holding back, which again can help bring understanding of what is really going on for them.
For some clients, their difficulties spring from how they tend to relate to other people. Negative patterns of relating can build up over the years and are hard to recognise ‘from the inside’. Yet when a client works with a counsellor, this provides a chance to examine these patterns as they play out in the counselling relationship. For example, if someone finds the idea of intimacy scary, then experiencing a close and trusting bond with a trained professional can allow deeper relationships in the rest of their life. Or, say, if a client has difficulty dealing with authority figures, they can practise new strategies in the safety of the consulting room.
Many research studies have found that what matters in counselling is the quality of the relationship between counsellor and client, rather than the specific mode being used. Working with another human being in an honest encounter is one of the most powerful ways to achieve understanding and a sense of perspective.