Does Counselling work?

In my first session with clients a question that comes up is: will this work for me? This probably comes from a completely understandable anxiety to get the right help and not waste time or money. The answer, however, is not a simple one, because it depends…

It depends if the person is ‘in the right place’ for counselling and, of course, if the Counsellor is any good. This answer can sound pretty unhelpful, but in reality it’s true; and at the same time my client’s have spoken of burdens being lifted and massive personal changes taking place. Personally I know it works if people are in the right place, and I know it worked for me.

I also know it to be true that if I can:

  • develop a relationship with my client so they feel able to share all those thoughts and feelings they ‘shouldn’t‘ have, and
  • share with them that I understand what it might be like to feel that way and be alongside them when times are really overwhelming and painful

then something sort of magical happens…

  • clients feel a massive relief that they are not ‘crazy’ or ‘bad’ but completely understandable.
  • The feelings they were trying to hide from are now being acknowledged, and this then allows something to shift**.
  • Once this new feeling is brought out into the open they can see it truly for the first time and can begin to accept and understand it. Like everything in life, if you keep pushing something it will push back, but now because we are no longer fighting against it, it can morph and change, and stop overwhelming us.

This change and acceptance is difficult and can be painful, and it is the only way I have ever experienced how to change things for good.

There is scientific evidence about how effective counselling can be, but as always this is about people in general, not you, not the client sat in front of me. So yes, it is a risk, and with the right Counsellor, at the right time, perhaps one of the best risk you’ll ever take.

*  I use the word acceptance, but I don’t mean it in an airy fairy way, it could be accepting the anger or rage which is beneath the surface or a deep sadness which follows you around.

** This is also called the paradox of change

The petulant side of living in the moment

Leisure time can be stressful, for me at least, simply because it’s not meant to be: I’ll have some glorious spare time on my hands and recently I’ve not quite known what to do.

I’ll look inside myself and feel what my true desire is: “Excellent”, I think “what I most want right now is be near trees and water”; so off I’ll head on a walk somewhere. Problem is, five minutes into my walk I’ll feel a teeny tiny amount of anxiety (a sure sign that all is not 100% well), you see now what I most want to do is to write, or be in a coffee shop, or have a nap. Whatever I have embarked on doesn’t match what my shifting, sliding self wants, and I’m finding it problematic.

During my training to be a counsellor I really learned to hone into this part of myself and trust it, but to be honest this central part of my being is a bit scatty. On the whole it serves me well to be able to encounter a myriad of dichotomous feelings, but it’s not very relaxing to respond to this petulant self, and as I say a bit bloody stressful.

So how do I keep listening to myself and find a way to relax a bit? Well, I guess, it’s a bit like any decision in life. There’s never an absolutely perfect decision, it’s not so simple as right and a wrong.

Oliver Burkeman in a recent article wrote about a research paper, Decision Quicksand. It states that we confuse the complexity of a problem with the importance of it in our lives. My inner world is complex, deep and unrestricted by practicality; and let’s face it, whether to have a nap or go for a stroll is very trivial. So it’s simple isn’t it? I just choose to carry on walking and accept that where I’m heading won’t be the perfect way to spend my time; but maybe if I can accept this then magically my leisure time will suddenly become, low and behold, really quite relaxing.