How does counselling help people?
The short answer...
Counselling provides a relationship in which you can feel safe to reflect on your issues and find a way forward. Your therapist’s job is to support you in exploring your experiences without judging you, helping you to expand your self-awareness and connect to your resources for personal growth. This process enables you to find ways to cope with your issues and make choices which empower you. Some of the common benefits are;
- an increased sense of well-being
- more resilience in stressful situations
- a greater connection to yourself and others
- improved self-confidence
- a reduction in the experience of anxiety
- higher motivation and a greater sense of clarity
The longer answer...
Humans are blessed with an advanced neural system and body which allows us to readily respond and adapt to the world around us. Whenever we get injured or fall unwell, the physical pain we experience makes us aware that something needs our attention, driving us to respond appropriately whether that be that putting on a plaster or visiting the doctor. Along the same lines, the feelings and emotions we experience are trying to tell us something about what is going on for us. They are urging us to respond. Sometimes we can know exactly what to do, but we can also find ourselves feeling lost, stuck, confused, or overwhelmed. Without knowing the meaning of our feelings, then we cannot respond in the best way.
Something which can make it particularly difficult to respond to our feelings is the beliefs and judgements we hold about them and ourselves. For instance, we may perceive them as 'stupid', 'wrong', 'disturbing' or 'unacceptable'. In an attempt to avoid the pain associated with this, we develop ways to distort or escape from what we are experiencing. This is usually done outside of our awareness, with our responses becoming habitual. We might rush over our thoughts, shut down our feelings, or twist them both into something different. Although these responses can help in the short term, they can also hinder us and cause problems in the long run. This is because we have put our feelings and experiences into boxes which limit our ability to understand them.
The judgements we hold are not born in a vacuum but are based on the judgements we have received over time from the people around us. For this reason, it is often very difficult to share our painful or frightening thoughts and feelings with others. All too often, people will reduce or dismiss what we share in the hope of helping us 'get over it', avoid the situation because it is too intense for them, or respond with harsh judgements.
In such situations, counselling can provide you with the help you need. With a non-judgemental and empathic approach alongside the assurance of confidentiality, your counsellor can provide you with space to safely explore your experiencing. Hearing yourself express things you would otherwise keep inside and having your therapist respond with empathy and acceptance gives you the freedom to break out of the boxes you usually have in place and get a clearer sense of what it all means to you. Your therapist will not push you to places you do not want to go but will facilitate you in exploring as you make sense of your world and move towards the root of your issues at your own pace. As you gain a greater understanding of your feelings and thoughts and how you usually respond to them, you will begin to learn new ways to respond which are more in line with your needs and empower you to have more control over your life. With this comes greater fulfilment, flexibility, and resilience.