‘Counselling and psychotherapy are umbrella terms that cover a range of talking therapies. They are effectively ‘tools’ used by trained practitioners who work with people over a short or long term to help them bring about effective change or enhance their wellbeing.’
Counselling allows people to discuss their problems and any difficult feelings they encounter in a safe, confidential environment. The term can mean different things to different people, but in general it is a process people seek when they want to change something in their lives or simply explore their thoughts and feelings in more depth.
A counsellor I am not there to sit you down and tell you what to do – instead I will encourage you to talk about what’s troubling you in order to uncover any root causes and identify your specific ways of thinking. I then work with you to create a plan of action to either help you reconcile your issues or help you to develop coping strategies. This will help you manage difficult situations and feelings more effectively.
Types of therapy
When it comes to counselling and psychotherapy there are a range of different approaches, or therapies that can be used. The type of therapy used will depend on a counsellor’s preferences, the issues you are facing and what type of person you are. Most counsellors won’t decide on a therapy type until they have found out more about you and the way you think.
The following examples briefly outline some of the most commonly used therapies in counselling:
Cognitive Behavioural therapy (CBT)
The principle idea behind behavioural therapy is that our behaviour is learnt and can essentially be unlearnt. This leads behavioural therapy to focus more on the present as opposed to looking back to the past. This type of therapy is therefore best used with those looking to change their learnt patterns of behaviour – for example sufferers of addiction or those with a fears or phobias.
The way we think often leads to changes in our behaviour, and cognitive therapy looks to reconcile issues where they begin – in our thoughts. The therapy looks to address any skewed ways of thinking that may be occurring, and eventually aims to replace them with healthier, more positive thought patterns.
Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR)
EMDR is typically used to treat issues that originated from trauma, however it is starting to be used more widely for issues such as depression and anxiety. The therapy involves recalling the distressing event/feeling while following the therapist’s finger as it moves from side to side. The aim is to reduce the intensity of these memories over time.
The humanistic approach is holistic in style, looking at factors such as free will, creativity and human potential. The therapy type encourages self exploration, with many varieties focusing on the ‘here and now’. Therapies that fall under this umbrella include Human Givens therapy, person-centred therapy and Gestalt therapy.
One of the oldest therapies used in psychology, it was Freud who founded the psychoanalytic technique. The therapy takes a different approach to behavioural and cognitive therapies as it perceives our thoughts to be out of our conscious control. Instead, psychoanalysis believes any psychological issues stem from childhood and need to be addressed in order to be resolved.
What to expect from counselling
If you have decided to try counselling, you might be feeling anxious about your first session. Making the decision to get help and address the issues you are facing is an important first step and should be commended. Knowing what to expect from a counselling session should help you feel more prepared and less nervous about your first appointment.
In your first session you will be asked some questions in order for me to gain an understanding of what’s worrying you and the way your thought processes work. All of the information obtained here will be used to help you in future sessions.
Some questions your counsellor may ask include:
- Why are you seeking counselling? – You will be asked what it is that has brought you to counselling. This is your opportunity to discuss exactly why you are there and what you hope to gain from counselling.
- What is your current situation and personal history? – It is important for you to let me as your counsellor know your current situation, this includes any day-to-day issues you are facing and even your work and home life. Discussing your personal history will give me a chance to understand more about you as a person and why these issues may have occurred.
- What symptoms are you experiencing? – Whether these are physical or psychological, it is important for us to discuss any symptoms.
It is very important that you be honest and open when answering these questions in order to get the most out of your counselling sessions.
During your counselling experience I aim to build a trusting relationship with you as my client so that you feel safe and confident discussing your concerns. If for any reason you do not feel comfortable talking about your problems with me it is perfectly acceptable to look for another counsellor.
As your counsellor it is my responsibility to establish some clear boundaries when you begin your sessions that cover the following:
- Dates and times of the counselling sessions
- Confidentiality agreement
- Clarification of the professional nature of the counsellor/client relationship
- How and when I can be contacted outside of sessions
These boundaries are an important part of establishing a sound, safe and supportive basis for the counselling relationship to develop successfully.