Counselling the Counsellor
One of my favourite subjects is counselling. Probably an obvious point, since I’m a counsellor. I live the experience with my clients and I believe in it. Counselling works. I’ve seen this over and over with my own eyes and research backs this up as well. And it’s not just seeing the results in others, but the benefit that I’ve received from counselling over the years.
As a proactive type of personality, I like to touch base with a therapist when the need arises in my life. I’m very much a believer of the “counselling when you need it” approach vs. a “counselling for life” approach. Counselling when you need it may mean seeing a therapist once in your life or multiple periods over the span of a lifetime. Each person’s needs are different. So, I found myself in the mental space recently where I thought that an objective, professional perspective would be helpful.
The hardest thing besides making the call is making the commitment to make the call. There is a self-evaluation that goes on: do I need counselling? What does “need” mean? Do I need to reach a certain threshold before this is legitimate? Can I communicate what I want to say in a way that will be understood?
Then there’s the counsellor. Will I like them? Will it be a good fit? Can they actually help me with my situation? Before the call is made, the therapy has already begun! This is a good thing!
And then there’s the call itself: was it difficult? Relaxed? Something else? Ideally we feel at ease with the counsellor we speak with or if we’re nervous, we feel that at least there’s a respect for where we’re at. This can be a very difficult part of the process as it’s a time of vulnerability.
What often does not get mentioned is that asking to meet with a therapist is significantly more difficult than trying to handle things solo.
How does it feel to be counselled? This is a highly individual process and my experience is uniquely my own.
One of the first things that came up for me was the realization that I had to be responsible. I had to:
- Discuss what brought me for counselling
- Decide what I wanted to talk about
- Decide where I wanted to go
- Decide, with help from the therapist, how I was going to get there
These are not easy things to do!
Was I able to do these things? Let’s see:
- Discuss what brought me for counselling: To a certain extent. What made it hard to identify a particular trigger for counselling was the fact that it had been almost three weeks since I made my appointment. It was, however a good reminder that it’s good to spend some time thinking about what has prompted you to come in before your appointment.
- Decide what I wanted to talk about: Yes I did and it was difficult at times to articulate this clearly! My conclusion here is pure intuition: I think the the ability to express yourself clearly is related, to a large extent, on whether you feel a good connection with your counsellor. Is it a good therapeutic fit?
- Decide where I wanted to go: I had an idea of this coming in because I’d thought about it off beforehand. Sometimes additional time to let things “settle” is not such a bad thing. We’re often capable of generating more solutions and options than we think. And this is not to say that timely access to a therapist is unimportant. If it’s possible it can be a significant benefit to do so: there can be a greater sense of immediacy and an ability to more accurately describe current thoughts, feelings and associated situations.
- Decide, with help from the therapist, how I was going to get there: In my case, the counsellor provided the feedback that my situation was as it needed to be. Was there anything to do? Maybe, maybe not. I left feeling a little muddled. Sometimes life isn’t that clear. There’s more than one way up the mountain.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the experience was the time after the appointment was over. I asked myself:
- How am I feeling? Slightly perplexed, slightly disappointed. I wanted something more, but what?
- What helped? Having feelings normalized; getting an outside perspective; hearing other ideas
- What did I learn? Overall, a renewed appreciation for the experience of being a client, even if it is just my own experience. I’m reminded how nerve-wracking it can be to make the call and to come in for the first meeting! The importance of thinking things through before a first appointment also stood out. Last, the therapeutic fit is critical. A less than ideal fit can sometimes be transformed as therapy progresses, but research shows that if this is not rectified early on, clients drop out.
I wholeheartedly encourage anyone who is searching for a therapist to find a counsellor that they get along with. If you can’t try someone else! You should, at minimum, be able to talk to the therapist before booking a first session.
Would I go for counselling again? Yes, most definitely! I believe in it! If I didn’t, I couldn’t do the work I do. Would it be with the same therapist? Probably not but that’s OK. Anything and anyone can teach, as long as we’re willing to learn.
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