What are your goals for therapy?
When clients come to therapy for the first time and they are asked what their goals are the most common answer is ‘I want to feel better’. Of course this is a valid answer, however, as a client we need to understand that counselling is an active process and we have our role to play in it, to be ‘actively engaged’. So what is this active engagement – surely this means turning up, staying to the end of the session, listening dutifully and paying the appropriate fee? Many think so but therapy involves work outside of the counselling environment; whether it be via mutually agreed set tasks, reflection, implementing better practices for living, psychoeducation... and perhaps the starting point begins with thinking about what we want to achieve from attending counselling sessions.
Therapy is not something that is done to us – our counsellor cannot fix us, only we can do this. Life sometimes feels very unfair and indeed sometimes, things are done to us and we are left with the aftermath. It makes sense, therefore, that we might learn that things are done to us and this will be the case with therapy as well. However, despite whatever our previous experiences may be; our thoughts and feelings are our responsibility and ours alone.
A counsellor needs to respect a clients’ free will, autonomy and their responsibility for their own life. If they take on that responsibility either by wresting it from the client or accepting it as a consequence of the client’s abdication, there can be no progress. Therapy will only effect change by clients regaining their own sense of self-agency, their understanding that they are responsible for their lives.
A counsellor cannot effect healing by rescuing clients from their feelings, no matter how much a client may want them to. So if you are considering therapy and want to ‘feel better’ perhaps your goals might include things such as:
- Gaining mastery.
- Developing self-control.
- Working through and learning from past experiences.
- Developing a sense of ourselves as an empowered and autonomous human being.
- Psycho education.
- Learning stabilisation/coping techniques.
- Building self-reliance.
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