Note – opinions expressed in this blog are those of the writer and do not represent bay Counselling and Therapy Services or the wider sector.
If you have never experienced counselling, there might be a question banging around in your head along the lines of… “what’s the point? How can talking about something make a difference?”
My personal thoughts on this is that these words of doubt are the bullying words of the problem that is affecting us. Depression drags people to their bedrooms to isolate them. Anxiety can get people pretending like crazy that everything is okay, when they really feel unsafe. Relationship problems get us believing that things will improve of their own accord or the problem is petty (a word on that – a problem is a problem if it is denying you happiness – what feels petty to someone may be life stopping for someone else). All problems discourage their “hosts” from seeking help, and often it is only sought when those around the person urge them to seek it.
Where did we ever get that notion that that if it happens in our heads it isn’t real and isn’t repairable? If our body is hurting or has an injury we are usually proactive in seeking help to heal it. However, if the hurt is psychological, or in our relationships there is a lingering social notion that it isn’t real. It is!
Talking helps. Sometimes simply being listened to and accepted is all that is needed for life to be good as gold. Sometimes strategies to cope with things like panic attacks or anxiety are helpful. Sometimes events and hurts need to be revisited and the meanings made about them that have carried through life need to be changed:
Case study: (this is a merging of several cases with similar aspects) A client had decided that he was a bad person because, when he was a teenager he had mistreated his best friend. He punished himself for a long time by isolating himself, for the very good reason that he was a terrible friend. This incident had affected his life since and he found himself struggling to say, “No” to demands put on him and was feeling like a doormat. When we revisited the teenage story through a different lens he realised that the self imposed punishment was the thing a really good person who deeply regretted and was ashamed of his behaviour would do. He realised he was actually a really good person who had done something bad, rather than an inherently bad person. This preferred identity opened up all sorts of possibilities for my client to stand up for himself with respect and dignity, where before he couldn’t.
There are two things that make counselling helpful. Firstly, a counsellor is trained to work with problems, so what you bring along will be dealt with in confidence, with respect and dignity. Secondly, a counsellor is an isolated relationship, usually for a specific purpose. They aren’t networked into your life. They are a person that you can share anything with, safe in the knowledge that your story will not leave the room (with a couple of exceptions the counsellor will explain) so hurts, shame, regrets, despairs and many of the things that we simply can’t talk to friends or family about because they might think less of us can be spoken about, analysed and worked on.
Counselling can help with situational problems, such as trauma from a recent incident or things like current workplace or school bullying, enduring problems like depression, anxiety, and relationship struggles, and historical problems like past sexual or physical abuse or notions of failure or inadequacy.