Back in 2012 I wrote an article about how it’s far better for someone in distress to talk to a professional counsellor than a friend or family member. Now seven years later it feels right to update and expand that piece in line with current attitudes and ideas. Since my original post we have seen views about mental health and personal stories being expressed more openly, often by celebrities like actors, musicians, sports stars and even Royalty. These people have done much to bring the whole subject of mental health into the limelight and have helped to improve attitudes to where we now see psychological health moving towards being treated the same as physical health. However for some progress is gradual and by this I mean we still encounter occasional derision around mental health issues by some who wouldn’t dream of disrespecting a person with a physical illness and so we sometimes still find prejudice if we scratch below the surface.
Previously I talked of what can happen when someone confides in a family member or friend and the result of that being the listener possibly feeling some responsibility for the talker’s situation. When this happens it’s a springboard for upset and hurt and may trigger the talker to hold back and not talk freely about their concerns and issues because they are afraid of upsetting the listener. An example of this could be the son encouraged to follow in his father’s footsteps and join the family firm, even though the young man had other ideas about his future. Plucking up courage to speak to his parents about his unhappiness and the feeling that joining the firm was a big mistake, he gets into a heated argument and decides that he cannot raise the subject again. The parents feel hurt by their son’s apparent rejection of their help and his ungratefulness at the chance to carry on the family business and ruminate on `where they went wrong. `
Alternately, if the young man has sought the help of a professional counsellor, things might well have turned out differently. He would have been able to talk freely without any fear of upsetting anyone because counsellors and psychotherapists are not personally connected to their client’s story and are independent in their outlook and because of their long training are virtually unshockable. A proficient therapist will be genuinely interested in their client, empathic and non-judgmental and do their best to help their client but they won’t advise them or tell them what to do. It’s all about the therapist supporting the client while he or she explores their thoughts and feelings and if the client can come up with their own solutions there’s more value in that then being told what to do. The client will be encouraged to maybe see things differently and helped to explore ways of resolving their situation. All this is done in the confidential and private setting of the counsellors own comfortable therapy room.
Depending on the individual client a profession counsellor will work with them along a planned path, which will start with identifying what the client wants to achieve in counselling, what changes they want to make to their lives and what their goals are. Through active listening the counsellor will help the client identify unhelpful thinking and irrational thoughts that are creating unwanted feelings and explain how to replace those unhelpful thoughts with new positive ones.
The work might include the acquisition of an understanding of the origins and development of emotional difficulties and becoming more aware of thoughts and feelings which had been blocked off or denied. Hugely important is self-acceptance and the development of a positive attitude towards self and movement in the direction of fulfilling potential as well as being assisted to arrive at a higher state of spiritual awakening. The therapist will also help the client to find a solution to problems which the client had not been able to resolve alone. Right from the very first session, the aim of counselling is that at some stage the client will leave feeling better about whatever was troubling them and with new skills to keep themselves psychologically well. So we can now see now that it’s not just family and friends being too close to be helpful, it’s also the skills the counsellor has to move things forward that makes things different.
In conclusion: Imagine that you have taken yourself away to your favourite seaside resort to give yourself time to make sense of something disturbing and worrying in your life. You walk along the front, taking in the vastness of the sea, the seemingly endless beach and the gulls riding the wind overhead. You notice families enjoying a day out and couples holding hands with eyes only for each other, oblivious to people around them. You reach the end of the promenade to where the bandstand sits upon a grassy knoll and decide to sit for a while on a wooden bench where you get into conversation with a total stranger. The stranger seems understanding and genuinely interested in you and you find yourself trusting them. You pour your heart out to them and talk of things that you have never told your family or friends. This is similar to counselling because counsellors are not personally involved in the situation and are impartial. Therefore there is no conflict or bias and you won’t upset them because they are trained to listen. Hence, there is no hidden agenda, no ulterior motive, no past, regret or guilt: the counsellor is maybe the perfect stranger.
What To do Next
If you feel counselling is maybe what you are looking for, or if you require further information the next step is very simple. Visit the Contact page and drop David a message via email, or call.
To book a counselling session with David, or to request further information, please call in confidence 01823 443022.
© David Trott 2019