The power of therapy: My own experience

So, you might be asking yourself, how could talking to a total stranger help you to better manage your problems? What is it that this stranger is going to do that a friend or relative can’t do?

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These are very rational questions and also questions that I have experienced myself. I had to undergo therapy whilst training to be a counsellor. I sat before a complete stranger and found myself feeling awkward. I was bumbling around, trying to find the words, just hoping that her training could assist me in whatever way possible. I didn’t even know why I was there really. I didn’t know how to begin to talk to her about my world and my role within it which all felt fine.


My counselling experience 

Now, I have found it easier to just accept that counselling is a weird experience. I sat there, opposite someone I’d never met before with the intention to talk about myself. Just by admitting how weird it felt was actually the best start to therapy for me. My counsellor was able to get an insight into where I was mentally and this was the first start to being honest about my true feelings. How she responded to those initial nerves also gave me an inclination as to whether she was the right form of support for me. Consequently, I continued to see her for three years. 

Over those three years, I sat in her living room and at times I’d laugh, cry, stay silent, yell and feel deeply and in a way that I’d never experienced with anyone. With all of these emotions present, she always sat there with me and she always listened. She shone a light on those very areas that I’d chosen to ignore. She helped me to unravel areas that felt messy and tangled. She helped me to dust off parts that felt buried and painful and she accepted me as a person in my own right. 

She challenged me when something I said was contradictory. She helped me to spot unhelpful patterns and behaviours. She noticed the critical language that I used to talk about myself and most importantly, she didn’t say things like… 

  • "You can’t feel that way..."
  • "You shouldn’t react to him/her…"
  • "Surely you didn’t do that did you…"
  • "I wonder what so and so thought about that…"

I didn’t know just how at odds with myself I had actually felt. I thought I was well put together. I thought I had a ‘level head' on my shoulders. However, just by listening to me recount tales of my day-to-day, she helped me to see that there was an internal battle raging on between my real self and my ideal self. 

When confronted with a challenging friendship, relationship, work issue or difficult decision, I felt lost, not knowing which direction to choose. I didn’t realise that internally I felt a need to please others. I didn’t know how strongly I needed approval from others. I had no idea that I would often banish my own desires, following only the advice of others. 

My counsellor helped illuminate this pattern to me, using the evidence that I presented to her. Just by talking through incidents or experiences I’d had, she was able to show me (by incorporating her knowledge from relevant counselling theories) how I felt about myself and others. She presented to me alternative ways of thinking. She helped highlight to me the parts of myself that I was denying. She helped me to recognise that perhaps they weren’t shameful. She helped me to see that perhaps I was worthy and that I too mattered.

She showed me a different way of relating by validating my feelings. My counsellor helped me to realise how much I relied on the opinions and judgements of others, and how I was afraid of saying or doing the ‘wrong thing’. She showed me that this was debilitating and unnecessary.

Judgemental comments like those I have highlighted above had the potential for me to feel certain emotions, such as shame or embarrassment. At times I felt silenced and then at odds with myself. Those statements, I felt, were saying "you are wrong" and so when I listened to the values, belief systems and prejudices of others, I tried to take them on as my own. I was denying my own true self and this led to feelings of anxiety, discontentment and unhappiness. Never truly feeling good enough. 

For me looking back at my history really helped me to understand perhaps why it was that I had felt this way. I was able to then see what I wanted to change within myself. I hadn’t realised that underlying most of my decisions was a negative core belief about myself. I didn’t know so much had stemmed from my childhood learnings and I didn’t realise that perhaps underlying some of my actions, shame just was sitting there. 

Over those three years, I was able to pull apart that core belief and re-adjust it. I was able to update my old patterns and I have now realised that there are other ways of being that are absolutely good enough. It took time, and I went over old ground time and time again. Just like learning a new skill or a new language, it took many sessions for the new messages to be received. It took a lot of self-reflection and practice outside of those sessions too.


How can counselling help you?

It takes courage to face your fears and to sit with the uncomfortable and the unknown. But with practice, comes confidence and ultimately change. I know that the counselling helped me enormously and I feel that I am starting to try to be the best version of myself and not the best version of someone else.

I didn’t know at the time that so much self-development would come from my own counselling journey. There is so much to learn about oneself and that is what I enjoy most about my work as a counsellor. I get to witness so much change from the clients that I see and it is such a privilege and an honour to be a part of their own journeys.

Therapy isn’t for everyone, but I’d encourage anyone to give it a shot. You just never know what might be there for you to see and learn about yourself.

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

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Sidcup DA14 & Bickley BR1
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Written by Alexandra Weir, Therapeutic Counsellor, Psychotherapist Dip. Couns, MBACP
Sidcup DA14 & Bickley BR1

My name is Alex Weir and I am a qualified Integrative Therapist that works in private practice with adults both online and in person. My therapy room is located in Sidcup and I have experience working with issues such as anxiety, depression, relationship struggles and bereavement.

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