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“But… what does a counsellor DO?”

Confused look on client face

Once people come to realise that I’m a counsellor, I’ve noticed that a large majority will react/respond in certain ways:

1: “So this happened to me when I was a certain age” – (full on disclosure)

2: “Soooo what does a counsellor do?” – (uncertainty/confusion)

3: “I better stay away. I bet you’re analysing me right now.” -(mistrust/apprehension)

4: “That’s so cool!” – (interest/acceptance)

I personally don’t mind whichever option people tend to pick as I tend to adapt my response, taking into account multiple factors. However, the one that I really like responding to, but cannot always articulate in the best way, in that moment, is the question:

“What does a counsellor do?”

I love this because it allows me to share my world with others (keeping strictly within the boundaries of confidentiality), and also allowing people to consider incorporating that world into their own lives. Many a times, I’ve looked back and thought “I feel like I could have explained that better” whilst also realising that due to various constraints, it isn’t always possible.

Therefore, I decided to write it down and put it out there for people to read so that people can understand what a counsellor like myself does.

However, to do that, I first want to talk a little bit about how unique each individual is. Stay with me, people. I am not digressing! It will tie in and make sense as you continue reading.

Counselling is not about someone giving you advice or telling you what to do. Your counsellor, or anyone else for that matter, has not lived your life exactly the way that you have lived it. They have not experienced every life situation that you have lived through and therefore would not have felt all the feelings in the order and time that you felt them. These feelings and the timeline in which you felt and responded to them, all had an impact on you in creating a specific set of thought and behaviour patterns that are unique to you.

New feelings would then be experienced, and these would intertwine with the previous feelings and thoughts and behaviour patterns and that would lead to more complex behaviour patterns and so the cycle continued to make you into the person that you are today. You and only you lived through that and therefore only YOU can decide what works for you and what doesn’t.

However, that’s not to say that a counsellor does nothing. So, what does a counsellor do? A counsellor is trained to help you explore those feelings, thoughts and behaviours and support you in learning new ways. A counsellor works with you to create a safe and supportive environment, so that you can reach a place where you recognise that all of your feelings are welcome in this space, no matter how you may feel about them (and yes, people can and do have feelings about their feelings and this too can lead to unhealthy behaviour patterns). Man, are we complex!

This safe space then allows you to bring to the forefront emotions that you may not have realised you would have been feeling. The counsellor helps with this, by genuinely and actively listening from a place of acceptance and then GENTLY challenging and probing to help you get to a root or core understanding of an event/situation and what its significance was for you (sometimes known within the counselling world as “insight”).

We then explore the new feelings that this insight brings up for you and how you would like to proceed with that. Throughout each stage of exploration, your counsellor follows your lead and works with you and the information you offer, in order to support you to make new connections and gain a greater understanding and appreciation of yourself.

Now, here’s the crucial part. The counsellor can only work with what you choose to bring and also how much you are determined and willing to work on. Therefore, for change to occur, the driving force will need to be YOU.

For this to happen, we need to be clear of our expectations of counselling. Unhealthy and unrealistic expectations can become an obstacle to your journey of growth. They can slow down an already difficult journey and create additional unnecessary pain.

Now that I’ve written this out, I’m also aware that I need to go further and explain what a person can do to manage their expectations; what to consider and their healthy alternatives.

I sense a new topic for a blog post has just manifested itself to me….

But for now, let me know your thoughts! Oh and if you want a bit more information on my counselling approach then you can click here

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