What is counselling?
It is about working towards a better understanding of ourselves in the pursuit of an improved life experience.
Counselling and psychotherapy are different words which refer to a process by which the facilitation of an accepting and confidential relationship, can lead to therapeutic change.
Put another way, counselling is first and foremost the recognition of a simple truth: humans need psychological contact with other humans to flourish. We also need to receive empathy and compassion, and we need to be heard; heard not only with the ears, but also with the heart.
In order to do counselling, we need a place where we feel safe enough to open up a bit. We need a counsellor or psychotherapist who doesn't judge what they hear, but actually works towards more deeply appreciate what is going on for the client they're working with. It's like that old saying about walking a mile in someone else's shoes. Research shows that simply being heard by someone else, and experiencing non-judgemental empathy can already be transformative and therapeutic.
I believe (and person-centred theory states) that you are the expert on being you. But sometimes, getting to what we know about ourselves, can be a struggle. Especially when other beliefs about who we are, and even who we aren't, get in the way.
Well-being, or being well, is all about getting closer to who we actually are.
Throughout life, we are encouraged to develop beliefs about who we are and what we're capable of. Inevitably, moments bubble up when the discomfort of maintaining these beliefs can become unbearable. Person-centred theory says that we are not only this version of ourselves which is made up of our beliefs about who we are, but that we are also simply who we are, regardless of what we believe. This authentic self is sometimes referred to as our organismic self. Everyone experiences these two versions of themselves.
Where it can start to get a bit more complicated is when who we are and who we believe we are have increasingly less in common, and bits of who we actually are begin to push their way through and challenge everything we think we know about ourselves.
When we're in times of stress, illness, loss and vulnerability, this dissonance between the beliefs that we ordinarily rely on about ourselves, can become shaken up by our organismic selves, and we can find ourselves in a space of uncertainty, doubt and discomfort. These feelings and emotions can manifest symptoms, like irrational behaviour, short-temperedness or even increased alcohol or drug usage. Unchecked, this can sometimes lead on to more pronounced symptoms, like self-harming behaviours and suicidal thoughts.
Although people often come for counselling well before this point, all these things, at least to some degree, can be seen as symptoms of inner discomfort and although some of these feelings can be really disconcerting, most of them can be eased with a healthy therapeutic relationship with a counsellor.
Whatever is going on for you, if you'd like to talk more about what to do next, please get in contact. I look forward to hearing from you.