How to make counselling work for you (part two)
Counselling is a confidential process which can at times feel a bit mysterious. Two people meet and the client may soon find they are sharing very personal information with their counsellor who, in the beginning at least, is a complete stranger to them. In the first part of this article, I looked at five tips to help you get the most from your time in counselling. In this follow up I want to conclude with a further five things to consider which may help you get what you need from counselling.
1. Try things out
People sometimes come to counselling because they feel that relationships aren’t working the way they want, they’ve made decisions which haven’t turned out the way they hoped or they just feel something needs to change. Your relationship with your counsellor is a great place to try something new. You struggle with expressing anger? Don’t usually get upset around people? Hate crying or being seen to be vulnerable? All good things to try out with your counsellor, to see how it feels for you to respond differently, or to have someone respond differently to you.
2. Give yourself time
When starting counselling, clients often worry that there’s an expectation that they need to tell everything all in the first session, which can create a pressure to 'get it right'. It’s up to you how you use your time, it may be cathartic to just pour everything out and let your counsellor help you sort through it. Equally you might need to get to know your counsellor a bit before opening up, or you might be OK sharing some things, but feel it’s too soon to share others. All of that is fine, your counsellor will be happy for you to take the time you need. They will help you work at the pace that is right for you.
3. Take a break
You’ve been meeting regularly and done some really good work. You might be pleased with the progress you’ve made and still feel there’s more work to do, but lately things feel a bit stuck. Maybe it’s time to take a break from counselling and see how the changes you’ve made play out in day to day life – you can always come back again if you feel the need, or if you think you’re ready for the next stage of your journey.
4. Don’t overthink things
You wonder if you’ve said something that’s offended or upset your counsellor, don’t know what they meant when they made that comment, or you’ve been in contact with them in between sessions and you’re worried they’re annoyed with you. All of those thoughts can come up in counselling and can leave you feeling quite anxious. If you can, try not to overthink what might or might not be happening. Counselling is the one place you can ask, check out, explain your fears or perceptions and have someone either confirm your thinking or show you a different perspective.
5. When it’s time to end
Whether you’ve agreed a set number of sessions or have an open ended agreement to work with your counsellor, the time will come when you’re ready to say goodbye. Some people have had very difficult experiences of endings where perhaps they haven’t been in control of saying goodbye, things have been left unsaid or where there’s been anger or great sadness. The relationship with your counsellor is one that you do have some control over, where you can say everything that you feel needs to be said. It can be hard to say goodbye, but talking to your counsellor about feelings and fears can help you find a way to end that feels right for you.
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