If you’re struggling with difficult feelings or experiences counselling can help you to explore your hopes, fears, relationships and choices and enable you to consider the options available to you. At a time when you might be feeling lost and nothing seems clear, counselling offers you a safe space and a time to feel really listened to, understood and accepted.
Counselling and psychotherapy fall under the umbrella term ‘talking therapies’, which allow people to discuss their problems and any difficult feelings they encounter in a safe, confidential environment. People seek counselling or psychotherapy when they want to change something in their lives or explore their thoughts and feelings in more depth.
What’s the difference between counselling and psychotherapy?
Counselling is a short-term process that can help you with ‘here-and-now’ issues by supporting you to identify problems and take steps to resolve specific issues or change unhelpful or damaging patterns of behaviour.
Psychotherapy is a longer-term, in-depth process that helps you to identify where your values and beliefs come from so that you can understand your feelings, thoughts and actions more clearly. This deeper insight gives you the opportunity to make conscious and helpful decisions about who you are in the here-and-now and the psychotherapeutic process can support you in letting go of or changing anything that may be holding you back.
How is counselling different to talking to friends or family?
Talking to a counsellor can be helpful as they have no preconceived perceptions of you, no prior connection to your life and are not there to tell you what to do. Instead, the process allows you to talk about what’s bothering you in order to uncover any root causes and identify your specific ways of thinking to help you reconcile your issues or help you to find ways of coping.
Everyone has thoughts and questions that are difficult to talk about but in the safety and confidentiality of the counselling room you can explore them with no judgement from the person sitting with you. As a trained professional your therapist can help you uncover your own insight and an understanding of your problems, providing you with the tools to help you to resolve them.
What can counselling help with?
Counselling and psychotherapy can help with difficult experiences or feelings you may be experiencing, such as:
- Feelings of loneliness, sadness, anxiety, worry, depression
- Being unable to form or maintain intimate relationships
- Low self-esteem, lack of self-confidence, feeling worthless
- Difficulty with family, friends or colleagues
- Professional or career challenges
- A sense that life itself no longer seems fulfilling
- Experience of grief, loss and separation
- Experience of abuse / trauma
- Sexual violence, including rape and childhood sexual abuse
- Addiction issues
- Anger management issues
- Issues relating to gender identity or sexuality
What happens in the first session?
During your first session your therapist will take time to discuss the reasons you’re considering counselling and will ask you some questions so she can understand your background and circumstances. It’s also an opportunity for you to ask questions about anything you’d like to know or are concerned about. If you decide you’d like to have further sessions your therapist will then discuss with you the best way to proceed, including the goals you’d like to work towards and when and how often you would meet. It’s usual to have one session a week, though sometimes more or less often might be appropriate. You can also discuss whether you’d prefer to have a regular appointment time or to work flexibly around your schedule.
How long will it take?
There’s no simple way to answer this question due to the many different reasons that bring people to counselling. Some people find a few sessions helpful and others may have sessions for several weeks or months. Where people want to undertake psychotherapy to address deeper issues, they may stay in therapy for a longer period of time.
Your therapist will be happy to discuss what type of therapy may be appropriate for the issues you’re facing and whether a shorter- or longer-term approach may be beneficial. Throughout your sessions she will regularly discuss how your therapy is progressing and check that the work is focussing on your goals and, by continuing to evaluate the process over time, she can ensure it is a focused and ongoing collaboration between her as therapist and you as the person seeking her professional guidance.