Not sure if counselling is for you? I can tell you how it is to work with me.
The top three questions I get asked as a counsellor are:
I'm being flippant here but what counselling is from one person to the next varies. The training which I have undertaken allows me to use pieces of information from a number of different psycho-therapeutic models in service of you, my client. Basically you come to counselling, you tell me about you and your experiences, and I bring to you the training which I have gained which suits your needs. This means that there are potentially thousands of different ways that I might work with you, the work which we will do will always be bespoke and tailored to you.
I chose to study in this way because I absolutely believe that it is the best way to work as a counsellor - that is to work integratively. I could have studied to become a specialist in CBT, or Freudian psychoanalysis but I didn't - because I don't believe that they alone are the key to working successfully as a therapist. I recall a quote from one of my lecturers when I was studying:
"If your only tool is a hammer, eventually everyone is going to start looking like nails."
This is how I think of pure CBT work - the most widely prescribed treatment for those of us who seek treatment for mental health concerns via the NHS. Now I don't disagree that CBT is useful - its a measured, evidence based therapy and is part of the NICE (The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) guidelines which the NHS uses to inform its treatment paths. However these are often limited to just six sessions, and I genuinely believe that not all issues are suited to this kind of therapy.
I imagine a client presenting with an eating disorder to a CBT therapist - who perhaps gives a person who might already be triggered by obsessive tracking and list making that very thing to do as "homework". Now I would hope that the therapist in question might notice the danger of doing so in some cases - however if they don't have any other therapeutic skills to offer what can they do for that client? They only have a hammer - and that client certainly isn't a nail.
I weave together a number of therapies to form my model of counselling. These are primarily existential, gestalt, and person centred. You can find out more about these ways of working here: http://www.itsgoodtotalk.org.uk/what-is-therapy/types-of-therapy
The person centred approach was developed in the 1950s by an american psychologist called Carl Rogers - some of you may have heard of him. He was a very influential man and continues to be so today. This approach means that your experience of what it is to be you, the client, is the focus of our sessions. That we explore your feelings about what it is to live your life with all the pleasures and sadness that it entails. This is a non-directive way of counselling - whereas a directive counsellor might suppose that by being an expert they could tell clients what is "wrong" with them, or what they should do to remedy their situation. The person centred counsellor works alongside the client, facilitating them in finding their way through their thoughts and feelings in new, previously unconsidered territory. Done well this is exciting and challenging work for both me as a counsellor and you as a client.
My view is that this supportive way of working, of being with you the client, of creating a safe and confidential space for you to explore who you really are - not just the version we portray to keep our families happy, or give the impression we have a great life on social media - coupled with my training and your growing self awareness is what really helps us and forms the work which we do in therapy. It sounds simple, but I have found it so rare that we get to be our true, authentic selves - particularly in front of another person - is what makes the difference.
I am an impartial observer - someone to whom you can speak your fears and shame and sadness, things which we all have, but seldom speak of out loud. The weight of the things we say with our voice is enormous compared to those we think in our head. Giving this weight to them is empowering, frightening and a manifestation of change.
That is the value that I bring as your counsellor. And when you're finished, you can close the door of my office and know that I will keep everything that you have said confidential and that you have not been judged for it. You can take the words which you have used and the work which you have done away with you, think it over, question it and bring it back for next time - usually with more to add.
Does that sound like something that would be useful to you?
Laura is an online talking therapist and writer specialising in working with millennials and the LGBTQI+ community.