Although for most people accessing counselling is no longer taboo, many still have misconceptions about what exactly the counselling process entails. Most of us can benefit from counseling, yet misunderstandings about this process can leave us confused and hesitant.
Misconceptions about counselling are typically rooted in outdated ideas about psychotherapy. One myth is that counselling is for "crazy people." Nothing could be further from the truth. Although some people wait until a small issue spirals out of control, counselling offers the opportunity to deal with day-to-day concerns while discovering tangible and effective solutions to present and past situations.
Another myth is that counselling is a crutch for weak people who can't cope with life. In reality, there is nothing weak about seeking counselling. Counselling sessions are a vehicle for strong people who decide to face their challenges directly rather than allowing fear to rule their life. It takes inner strength to acknowledge a problem and seek to proactively and responsibly deal with the matter before it negatively impacts on their physical, emotional, social, and spiritual well-being.
One other myth is that if you have accessed counselling before and were not able to resolve your issues there is no point in trying again. Counselling, like any other relationship, is about developing a rapport between the therapist and the client. You may not have been able to develop that connection with a particular therapist; however, different therapists have different personalities and approach the counselling relationship slightly differently so trying another therapist is always worthwhile. As well, you are a dynamic individual – you may not have been ready to address your concerns at that particular stage of life – and now may be the time.
Common questions you may have about the counselling process:
Will the counsellor draw out my deep dark secrets?
The counsellor will only know what you choose to share with him/her. You decide what you want to share, as and when, you feel comfortable with your counsellor.
Will I be judged based on what I share about myself?
No. One of the foundations of counselling is to not judge a person. Therefore a counsellor will accept you unconditionally and seek to understand what you are experiencing, from your point of view.
How will talking to a counsellor who doesn’t know me, help me?
Not knowing you personally enables the counsellor to be neutral, objective and non-judgmental of you. A friend or a family member would often have their own opinions or suggestions of what might be right for you, which is helpful information. However, when you wish to focus on and arrive at your own answers, speaking to a counsellor helps you get an unbiased and deeper understanding of yourself and your situation. Over time, your counsellor and you will form an accepting yet professional relationship, one in which you feel comfortable to be yourself.
How can I trust that the counsellor won’t divulge my secrets?
Another foundation of counselling is trust and confidentiality. Confidentiality is one of the most important aspects of counselling, without which there can be no counselling relationship. Counsellors are ethically bound to maintain confidentiality except in situations where there is risk of self-harm, harm to others or child abuse.
Will the counsellor give me a solution to my problem?
This is a common misconception about the purpose of counselling. Every person and life situation is unique and needs to be understood. Ready-made solutions will not help in the long run. Therefore, counsellors do not give advice. Instead the counselling relationship helps you gain useful insight and understanding of yourself and your situation. This helps you make your own decisions, which are healthy and productive. The counsellor and you work together, to help you come to your own solutions, to bring about more long-lasting change.
What “treatment” will the counsellors give me?
Counsellors do not “treat” people. Counsellors facilitate a process to enable you to gain awareness and growth through a warm and understanding relationship. The counsellor is transparent and decides together with you, what might be helpful areas to work for change.
Does the counselling process take a very long time?
Not necessarily. Counselling is a process marked not by time but by the quality and outcome of the sessions. Based on your needs and goals from counselling, you could decide together with your counsellor on the number of sessions that will be most helpful for you.
What is Counselling?
Counselling is an interactive, learning process that enables a person, couple, family, or group to sort out issues and reach decisions. It is a dynamic, two-way process with a counsellor who listens, understands and tries to work with you to reach goals that you have set for yourself. Typically, counselling is sought out at times of change or life transitions or when a person is in crisis. There is no need to wait for a situation to become traumatic. Accessing help before an issue escalates makes the counselling processmuch less complicated.
Counselling involves talking with a professionally trained person who helps the client develop self-awareness, learn to express thoughts and feelings rather than acting them out in inappropriate ways or at inopportune times, solve a problem, understand and change behaviours; or learn new ways of looking at or approaching the present or past circumstances. Counselling is a friendly and positive approach to personal development. It can help the client face the effects of past experiences and seek ways to heal or overcome them.
When a client seeks counselling they may feel nervous or overwhelmed and not sure where to begin or where it is that they want to go with the situation. Most people tend to be hard on themselves while a therapist is there to provide you with non-judgmental, caring expertise when you may be feeling isolated and discouraged. The role of the therapist is to mirror back to the client aspects that are not clear for the person to see. A therapist will ask questions that you may not have asked yourself thereby leading you to recognize and understand aspects of yourself and/or your situation that you have not considered. Hearing your thoughts and feelings paraphrased adds clarity when the emotional turmoil swims around in your head. With the support of a counselling therapist you can take action towards healing and growth.
“People go to therapy to cope with disorders, relationships, stress, grief, to figure out who they are and learn to live life to the fullest. There’s no shame in wanting a better life.”
Ryan Howes, Clinical Pyschologist