Naming names

One important way in which counsellors help their clients is to 'name names'. By this, I mean that therapists have technical knowledge of human behaviours, relational patterns and psychological functioning which most people in the general population don't have. So counsellors are able to put a name to behaviour or feelings which may be very troubling to clients, and which they think is peculiar to themselves.

To have a technical name and recognition that they are not 'weird' or 'mad' can bring great relief to clients, as can the understanding that many other people have experienced the same thing.

Here are some examples of 'naming names':

  • Dissociation - A sense of spacing out/disappearing/floating away when under stress, which all humans do to some extent, but which can be alarming and upsetting if it is happening frequently and disrupting everyday life. It can be caused by trauma, and there are practical ways to handle it which can be learned with a therapist.
  • Catastrophising - Always concentrating on how things could go wrong, looking for all the potential difficulties in a very anxious way. This pattern can be learned, sometimes in childhood, as a way of keeping a sense of control. A counsellor can help with changing this pattern once it's been identified.
  • The Drama Triangle - A recurring pattern of behaviour in families where people take up three roles (victim, persecutor, rescuer). Once a client has heard behaviour described with this name, they can then start to break out of the roles and create more healthy relationships.
  • Abuse - This name may seem self-evident, but sometimes when a client is inside an abusive relationship, they need an external observer, the therapist, to actually name behaviour as 'abuse'. Only then can they begin to work out how to change things.
  • External locus of control -This means that the client tends to look towards other people for their values and opinions, rather than recognising their own deep beliefs, needs and feelings. Once a counsellor has named this tendency, the client can be helped to move towards a more healthy and satisfying internal locus of control.

It's important to say that this 'naming of names' should only be happening within a respectful and safe therapeutic relationship. The client must be able to trust the counsellor and be feeling understood as an individual before they are ready to hear these technical names used to describe their personal experiences.

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

Share this article with a friend

Written by Virginia Sherborne MBACP (Accred.)

I am a qualified counsellor and Accredited member of the BACP, seeing clients at The Practice Rooms near the centre of Sheffield. I have specialist training in bereavement, rape/sexual abuse, trauma and parenting. My clients include young people as well as adults.
I can help you to:

find a safe space to come to terms with painful experiences
gain some perspective on yo… Read more

Written by Virginia Sherborne MBACP (Accred.)

Show comments

Find the right counsellor or therapist for you

All therapists are verified professionals.