What to expect from counselling
Counselling is a unique experience for everyone. Every counsellor also has a unique approach informed by their training, interests and life experiences.
As such, there is no singular way to ‘do’ counselling and what to expect varies from counsellor to counsellor, client to client.
My approach is founded on person-centred counselling – developed and popularised by Carl Rogers in the 1960-80s. It is also informed by a number of other approaches and considerations.
About Person-Centred Counselling
Person-centred counselling is very flexible and adaptable. It’s based entirely around you as an individual – what you think and how you actually feel – not what some academic from 50 years ago expected you to think and feel.
Person-centred counselling is based on the understanding that all human beings are different, we all have different ways of perceiving the world, and that you are the expert on your own life. After all, you’ve lived every minute of it since you were born.
Person-Centred Counselling and ‘Mental Illness’
Person-centred counsellors also don’t diagnose ‘mental illness’. The term assumes there is something bad or incorrect about how you’re thinking, feeling and/or behaving.
Instead, person-centred counsellors accept that people adapt to their experiences to survive and sometimes these survival/coping mechanisms lead people to think/feel/behave in ways they find unhelpful and/or distressing. It’s the work of counselling to explore these experiences, ways of coping, thoughts, feelings, and behaviours to help gain greater understanding, a sense of meaning, and a clearer perspective.
Research has shown that person-centred counselling can work well and improve the quality of life for people with a range of mental health diagnoses.
Being a Person-Centred Counsellor
Person-centred counsellors are trained in helpful ways to be within the counselling room. You can bring whatever you want to discuss, think whatever you naturally think, and, most importantly, feel however you genuinely feel. The counsellor’s job is to help you explore these experiences, behaviours, thoughts, and feelings without judgement.
There are three essential qualities a person-centred counsellor needs to be effective:
- Empathy – the ability and willingness to feel what you feel as fully as possible, as if they were there with you, and communicating that to you.
- Genuineness – being open and honest with what they’re saying and why, offering a genuine thought, feeling or input.
- Non-judgement – respecting the fact that everyone sees the world differently which means we’re in no position to judge.
My Interests and Life Experiences
As well as taking a person-centred approach to counselling, my practice is also informed by other theoretical approaches, such as psychodynamic and existential counselling, neuroscience, emotion-focused therapy, CBT, and psychology more generally.
I also feel acutely aware that the planet and society are undergoing dramatic changes and that these affect how we think, feel, and behave. These wider political, environmental, sociological, and philosophical points also inform my work.
Find out more About Me
What to expect from the counselling process
While counselling is unique for everyone, there are some common things you can expect from counselling:
- Initial sessions focus on exploring – It’s like drawing a map of your world so we know the lay of the land, the important features, as well as any dangerous/scary areas.
- Things may get worse before they get better – Stirring things up can be difficult. It is often necessary to open old wounds, explore scary experiences, and confront difficult thoughts and feelings.
- Things can get messy and confusing – Unlike TV, not every threat is neatly tied-up and not everything makes perfect sense. Life is messy and complicated.
- I offer metaphors, spot patterns, and draw links – Three things I am particularly good at and which clients often find helpful. However, it’s important to push back if what I offer doesn’t ‘fit’ with your experience so we can further explore and clarify together.
- I will sometimes offer suggestions but never ‘advice’ – I am not the expert in your life, you are. But I will have some things to try out if you want to. These are never mandatory, are not ‘advice’, and I won’t think less of you if you prefer not to take them.
- There is no magic wand – As much as I would like to magic away your problems, I can’t. Any easy solution to complex and messy issues like life should be treated with scepticism.
- You have power in the room – Counselling is collaborative work. If you don’t like something, you can change it. If you want something specific, you can ask for it. If you want to change focus, you can.
Further questions around counselling, what to expect, issues like confidentiality, etc. are explored in my FAQs page.