How do I know if counselling is working for me or whether it will work? These are questions that I get asked when I speak to clients and it is an interesting topic to unpick.
Engaging in counselling is all about what you want to achieve and so if you have set your mind to needing to deal with something, it will work for you. If you have the mindset of “it won’t work for me” then it probably won’t. If a client is not ready for counselling then the process will seem tedious to them and they won’t see the point. Similarly, if a client is coming to counselling because someone else has told them to then this possibly won’t work either. A client needs to be ready to face the challenges they are having in life and to be prepared to explore those difficult things in the safe space created by the counsellor.
Counsellors do not give advice and fix things for you. A professional counsellor will listen and help to guide you through the process in a safe way. Sometimes clients know what needs to be discussed, whilst others just know that something is wrong. A good counsellor will make sure that they understand you and what you are looking to be challenged with.
Many people go to counselling and think that their problems are silly or stupid, but they are not. If something is giving you trouble then it is understandable that you are getting some discomfort from that. If you are wearing a pair of shoes 2 sizes too small it is uncomfortable, painful and something needs to change. We may not realise at first that the shoes are the wrong size but as soon as we focus on the pain we can work out the cause and then find the solution.
Sometimes clients know what the problem is and they know they need to change an element in their lives but they need to build up the courage to do that. A counsellor will support that client in the process of making those difficult changes. It’s like we are holding your hand whilst you make a scary jump.
There are occasions when somebody will think that their partner or friend needs counselling. As lovely as it is that you care, the potential client needs to make the decision themselves. As a counsellor I always ask someone what has brought them to counselling. If they were to answer that their spouse has made them come I would look at that with them and see if they were coming to please someone else or to look after themselves. You need to want counselling in order for you to engage properly and get the most from the sessions.
Parents can also want children to have counselling for a problem when in fact the parent has a problem and needs to address their parental responsibilities. When a child becomes a teenager, they start to find out who they are, what they want in life and to rebel against their parents. A parent may think that their teenager has a problem but most of the time communication with young people is actually where the problem lies.
So will counselling work for you? It depends on whether you want it to or not.