When we confide in a friend or family member there’s a chance that person will feel some responsibility for the talker’s situation. This in turn will colour the listener’s response and possibly cause the talker to hold back and not to let it all out, for fear of upsetting the listener. For example – a daughter attempts to talk to her Mother about her unhappiness and homesickness while away at University. The daughter feels it was a huge mistake to have gone and wishes she had taken a job near home instead.
The Mother is aware of the financial sacrifices her husband and herself have made to provide this opportunity for their daughter and feels hurt by her apparent ungratefulness. The daughter’s attempt to talk to her Mother about her unhappiness ends in a heated argument and she decides not to broach the subject again. Alternately, if the daughter had seen a professional counsellor things would almost certainly have been different.
One reason for this is that counsellors and psychotherapists are not personally connected to their client’s story. A good therapist will be genuinely interested in their client, empathic and non-judgmental and do their best to help their client, while not advising them or telling them what to do. It’s all a question of support – support while the client explores their thoughts and feelings. Support to maybe see things differently and support in working towards resolving their situation. All in a confidential and private setting.
Imagine yourself in a town far away from home. You have something on your mind which is worrying you. You walk in the park to think things over and stop for a while on a bench, where you get into conversation with a total stranger. The stranger seems understanding and interested in you and you trust them. You pour your heart out to them and talk of things you could never tell your family or friends. This is a little of how it is with counselling – there’s no past, there’s no guilt – the counsellor is maybe the perfect stranger.