Lots of people think about it for a while before they decide to contact a counsellor. You know it will take up time, and cost money, and although you must be feeling some discomfort or pain or you probably wouldn’t be looking, questions hang over you: What will I get from counselling? Will it be worth it? Will it help? Will it work?
If you have never tried counselling before, or have only done CBT and not more exploratory, integrative therapy, you might wonder how it works, or what you’ll actually get from me.
Essentially what you’ll get, if you come to see me, is a conversation that is more helpful than most. We’ll focus on your stuff. (I won’t take up your space talking about me.) I’ll listen to you closely, with an open mind, treat you with respect, accept and value you.
You might be nervous, anxious, or stressed. As you start to talk it out, you are welcome to be completely honest (even one-sided!) in having your version heard, fully, maybe for the first time. You can cry, swear, be angry, frustrated, hurt, critical, disappointed, lonely, bored, proud, powerful, excited, afraid… whatever. You can tell it how it is, for you, knowing that I will hear you and believe you and be available to share in the experience with you. Expressing yourself like this can in itself be really cathartic.
Usually people turn up to therapy with a story: this is what happened, or is happening. Most of the time part of this story is uncomfortable, irritating, embarrassing or upsetting. By talking it through with someone who gets it – someone who has had to tell some of her own painful stories in order to move on from them – gradually some of the sting might be taken out of it. Sometimes we’ll keep coming back to bits of it, as newer things remind us of older things, and each time those sore spots will become less sensitive.
As those memories come together to form a more coherent story of who you are and how you got where you are now, you might find yourself feeling more relaxed.
As I listen to you and develop an understanding of who you are and what you are dealing with, I might offer some kind of interpretation or insight. But only you can ever know for sure exactly what is going on with you, so I will be curious about this, asking rather than telling you.
(Sometimes I will get it wrong. When that happens I will be open to hearing about that and making sense of it. You can be honest with me about anything and everything – and that includes the things I do and say in session with you.)
You will learn and gain insight, or different ways of looking at yourself and your problems, through our discussions. When I notice things about the things you say or the way you seem when I see you, I’ll share them with you and we’ll see what sense we can make of it together.
Sometimes what you will get is some new information. For example, I love teaching my clients about the drama triangle. The drama triangle is a model of human interaction that provides a really simple way of making sense of what is going on when you find yourself stuck in conflict with someone. Sometimes just making sense of why you always feel like you need to rescue your sister, or get so angry with your husband, can make an enormous difference to what happens next.
Or, for example, I might explain to you a bit about how memory works, or why it’s normal for you to be so aware of dangers if you’re highly sensitive, or that everyone has intrusive thoughts sometimes.
I will be honest, open and consistent with you, reassuring and supportive. I will help you to get in touch with your feelings and work out what it is that you need in order to feel better. Then I will support you as you find a way to do it.
As you make more sense of yourself and your story, you’ll probably want to make some changes. As you do that, you might find new challenges in your relationships, and I’ll be there to help you make sense of and find a way through those too. You might find yourself asking “what will I get from counselling?” again, and getting new answers.
All of this depends on you turning up and opening up. There’s no rush; I’m patient and I understand that sometimes it takes time to feel ready, to trust, to take a risk to make a change. (Sometimes you might feel deeply impatient, and I’m used to dealing with that too.)
So when you’re ready, this is what you can expect to get from me. I will be both challenging and supportive, and if you show up and engage, you’ll grow.
I hope this has helped with your wondering: what will I get from counselling?
When you are ready, here’s how to get in touch.