What is counselling, exactly?

What is counselling, exactly? Well, I guess to me and at its most basic, counselling is a therapeutic relationship between a therapist and a client and yet, there is nothing “basic” about this. Some counsellors offer short term, results-oriented work. Others work medium to long-term at profound emotional depth around troubling behaviour patterns, or psychological discomfort and what might be making these behaviours and feelings so dominating or overwhelming.

It is here that the therapeutic relationship becomes more than “basic”. It is a space; a way of being with another that grows to feel safe and secure. It becomes a container - built between client and therapist.

This container as it builds, holds the uncomfortable, often unpleasant and potentially bewildering feelings as they might arise in the room. It offers, in a unique way, the opportunity to explore where in the past they come from, looking at the origins from every angle, even re-experiencing them within the context of the therapeutic relationship as they might be re-framed in this way. And it is a way of accompanying empathetically, honestly and non-judgementally, these feelings that might be deeply rooted in a previously "unlook-at-able" past.  

Most importantly, it is a way of growing to understand the patterns developed in the past; how they might have helped protect and preserve in the past, how they might even have felt as though they were crucial to survival… and how in the here and now they might not be so helpful anymore. How they, as they impose themselves almost without recognition, might create difficulties around actually being in the present without, say, anxiety or discomfort.

By exploring this in the therapeutic relationship, the opportunity can be created to recognise and resolve the emotional disconnect that might exist between the needs of the past and the needs of the present, to honour both and to go forward in a healthier and happier way. 

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Written by Merri Mayers MBACP

Merri Mayers, an MBACP registered counsellor, works near Cirencester, Gloucestershire. Merri is an integrative therapist employing the most effective aspects of person centred, gestalt, psychodynamic, systemic and TA models. She works relationally, understanding that how we engage with others can illuminate how we see and feel about ourselves.… Read more

Written by Merri Mayers MBACP

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