What happens in counselling?

Perhaps you have a problem? Is there no-one around who can help? Then perhaps if you find a registered counsellor that they can help.

As a therapist who engages in counselling in Glasgow, I know that clients have often seen adverts for counsellors but are not sure what counselling in this sense means. It has to be confidential for them it has to be secret. So what can you expect when you contact a counsellor?  How does it all work?

First let us examine what might have brought you to the counsellor’s door.  Problems have the capacity to overwhelm us.  We see it challenging us on every level. We feel that we can’t open up to friends and family because you don’t want to worry or hurt them. Perhaps you are scared of their reaction or how it might leave your relationship afterwards. Perhaps they are part of the problem and you need to get your thoughts straight in your head. You have never felt so alone, you need to talk to someone but it needs to be private.

Counselling has been likened to tending a garden. There are bits of the garden (sic. yourself) that you like and bits you want to pull out. With care, re-modelling and re-planting you can have a place to sit and relax and enjoy life.

I am assuming that you will choose a qualified counsellor, with a professional registration. No professional will be upset if you ask them for proof. So you pick up the phone and dial.

The first thing that a counsellor is likely to do is talk to you about an outline to your problem.  Some counsellors will do this over the phone; some will do it at your first session. The conversation is likely to cover a range of topics. What you might expect from counselling, how often you will meet or what happens if you have to miss an appointment.

Confidentiality is important to most clients, because essentially in the first session you are taking to a stranger. It is important to discuss this with the counsellor, because definitions can vary. It’s okay to ask if it concerns you. A typical definition might be: Confidential means that our sessions remain private between you and me, unless you tell me that you are going to harm yourself. With a definition like this you know where you stand, you may feel you need more clarity (for example if you wanted to talk about suicidal thoughts) but the important thing is to agree before you reveal anything.  It is interesting to reflect how different that is with a family member of friend where you have to trust that they will not say anything.

Counselling sessions themselves are usually around 50 – 60 minutes.  Counsellors are trained to listen closely to you, your feelings, your thoughts and fears.  They are not there to judge you or to tell you off. The counsellor will try very hard to understand the world the way that you see it and will be as honest as they can about the insight that they can offer. The process can include challenging your thoughts or exploring more deeply feelings or a range of other ways to offer insight. Different types of counselling offer different ways of empowering you to bring about change in your life but it is important that you are at the centre of that process.

If you are expecting instant results counselling is not for you, counselling is a process. This is not surprising as your emotional state is a result of months or even years of work, it is perhaps unrealistic to expect it to change in one hour. Because you are an individual, because you are unique it is difficult to say how long you will need, but a good counsellor will discuss your progress and will be open to you discussing it too if you feel things are moving too fast or too slow

Counselling is a process based approach to tackling emotional and physical problems. This helps clients to resolve issues in their lives.  An important part of this process is seen as the confidential nature so you feel in control of what you say to your counsellor. We have looked at the importance of discussing with your therapist how the sessions will work for you and being absolutely comfortable with that way of working.  Whatever you choose to do I wish you the best of luck.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Glasgow, G46
Written by Graeme Orr, MBACP(Accred) Counsellor
Glasgow, G46

I am an Accredited Member of BACP offering counselling in person (southside of Glasgow) and on-line (UK wide) for individuals. It can be a daunting prospect to choose a counsellor just when we are at our most vulnerable, I hope that what you read here resonates with you.  We all struggle with d...

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