Simply stated, counselling is any relationship in which one person is helping another person to explore and better understand problems. Friends, relatives, teachers and advisors may provide different types of support whereas a counsellors is completely impartial and is experienced/skilled in developing "helping relationships" and working with many difficult problems people face.
Counselling can be a change process which promotes personal growth. Clients can be helped to
- express themselves in a safe, supportive, collaborative, non-judgmental climate;
- explore and identify their problems.
- increase self-awareness of unhelpful patterns
- learn, where appropriate, more helpful coping skills (e.g. "assertive skills")
- identify and achieve goals that are important to them.
What You Can Expect From Your Counsellor
You can expect someone who is interested in listening to your concerns and in helping you develop a better understanding of them so that you may deal with them more easily and effectively. Your counsellor will take you seriously and be willing to openly discuss anything you wish to discuss. Expect your counsellor to focus the session on you, and not on others. Because counsellors have different beliefs about how people change, they differ on how much talking they do in sessions, whether they ask you to do 'between session work' and their focus of discussion. If you have any questions about what is going on, by all means ask. Counsellors have no "magical" skills and will be unable to solve your problems directly for you. Your counsellor will want to work with you, but won't do for you what you are capable of doing for yourself. Except under unusual circumstances, your counsellor will maintain strict confidentiality about you, and will openly discuss this with you.
Your Responsibilities in Counselling
Your main responsibilities in counselling are to attend your regularly scheduled sessions, talk about what is bothering you as openly and honestly as you can, and complete any tasks or 'between session assignments' you may be asked to do. You are expected to let your counsellor know if you are unable to make it to a session. Most counselling will require you to try something new or a "different approach." Another thing your counsellor will expect is for you to be willing to experiment and try things without jumping to conclusions. You are also expected to let your counsellor know when your problems have been solved as well as let your counsellor know if you don't feel like you're making any progress. This latter point is most important: your counsellor is most interested in your benefiting from counselling.
Common difficulties in counselling
One of the most difficult steps in counselling occurs before you even see a counsellor for the first time. Deciding to seek counselling is the first step in change. Once this decision has been made, the mechanics for change have been set in motion. In the process of changing the way you think, feel, or behave, you usually must try out new ways of doing things. This can make you anxious or frustrated. Also, in the course of counselling you may come to realise that things you once thought of only in a positive or negative way you may see differently. The challenges of pushing on your limitations may also cause your frustrations, but with commitment and practice, you will find that you can stretch your limits and find new and exciting aspects of your self.
Tips on how to benefit from counselling:
Be ready to focus on a specific problem or issue. Be prepared for your sessions. Attend your sessions and take an active part in them. Complete (or at least attempt) any inter session work. Tell your counsellor if you don't think you're being helped.