The DARK side of Counselling (an insider’s perspective)
I don’t want to GO to a counsellor! You don’t GO to a counsellor! We go to a doctor when we are ill, and often, a quick dose of medicine makes the pain or illness go away. To have the same expectation from counselling may not be right. So, you don’t go to a counsellor, you WORK with one! Yes, it does take work, and you – the client – have to do it – not the counsellor. Next is that it takes time – there are seldom quick fixes to the issues that we struggle with. Having said that, many clients have some benefit from the first session itself. Mostly, it’s because no one else has ever heard them so intently, without judgment, and without offering an opinion on how they should really run their life.
You need to be MENTAL to work with a counsellor. No, not at all! Normal is good! We like ‘normal’ (whatever that means). Most issues that a counsellor works with include: relationship challenges (at work and home), thinking through decisions, gaining clarity on Next is What, sharing things that are really upsetting, coming out of feeling blue, building self-confidence and self-esteem, feeling less stressed, letting go, learning to have fun… and so on. These are things we all go through. You wouldn’t think twice about talking these things through with a friend or colleague – so why is there so much hesitation in working with a counsellor? A counsellor is more likely to be there for you, accept what you are going through in a non-judgmental way, affirm and validate your feelings, not insist on what you must do, and support you with strategies and skills which are more helpful than well-meaning advice from friends (which one doesn’t follow anyway because they just don’t get it).
Tell me about your PAST! And, your deep, dark secrets! The stereotype of the counselling process comes from the pictures of psychotherapy one has of Sigmund Freud with a patient on a couch, sharing deep-rooted issues from the past, in a process that seems to go on forever. Nothing is further from the truth! The common understanding that counselling focuses on the PAST is very far from the truth in most contemporary modalities. Counselling focuses on the present, is solution-focused, and often can get you traction in four to eight weeks. It helps you move towards the future that you want, or that will be more helpful for you.
So, Don’t be in the DARK any more! Just talking about things with a trained counsellor puts one’s thinking and feelings in perspective – this in itself, has therapeutic benefit even though nothing might have changed. At this point, however, the work just starts; it probably takes about two to three meetings before the client unearths the real issues, and a picture of how to deal with them emerges. Now is when the counsellor supports the client with strategies and tactics. A client is never alone in the change process through its ups and downs. But change does happen – if the client is willing to put in the effort, take the risks, and stay with the process. Effort, time, patience, resilience, and trust are key requirements when one works with a counsellor. Why not take the first step?
Who? Where? So, who does one work with? Where does one find a suitable counsellor to work with? Right here!