Counselling – fear of the unknown
Counselling can be a bit like going to the Dentist – you’ve had this “pain” for a while, but you keep hoping that it will go away of its own accord. At the same time, you’re aware that it’s not getting any better. The thought of going through something which you’re worried might be quite painful and uncomfortable, probably means you will keep putting it off. After all, you’re already feeling pretty anxious about all sorts of things, at work and home. Why add another cause for anxiety to your long list? And when you think of all the people in the world with really serious issues, yours seem trivial in comparison. Do you really want to pay a complete stranger to sit and listen to all your worries and neuroses?
So, you put up with your issues for another day, week, month and all the while, the issue is still not going away. On the good days, it’s easier to compartmentalize and “put it in a box” – pretend it’s not really there. You may feel as if you’re coping quite well. It’s not as if you’re going to pieces; having a nervous breakdown. However, on the bad days, it really does feel like an uphill struggle. You know you’re being irritable and snappy and your energy levels are pretty low. You feel like you’re constantly trying to please everyone and end up pleasing no one, including yourself.
On the other hand, you may feel exhausted most of the time and wake up feeling as if you haven’t slept. Just getting up each morning and facing the day is an effort. Maybe, you’ve lost interest in all the things you used to do and you find yourself withdrawing from social contact with family and friends. Yet, the thought of asking for help seems like an admission of failure and a sign of weakness.
I think you would probably agree, that fear of the unknown and worrying what other people will think, can get in the way of us doing things which could really benefit us in the long term, if only we could pluck up the courage.
Myths about Counselling
A lot of people think that if they go to see a therapist, the therapist will analyse them and will be able to read their mind. The thought that someone might know what you’re thinking can be quite scary. Well, let me put your mind at rest, a therapist can’t literally read your thoughts.
I think it’s important to say here, that counselling is not like going to the Doctor. When you get an infection or unexplained symptoms – you expect the Doctor to make a diagnosis and then hopefully give you a prescription which will make you feel better. A counsellor’s role is quite different, in that we are not there to tell you what is wrong with you and then offer a solution to all your problems. We are there to work alongside you, accepting you as you are and to help you to explore your issues and raise your self -awareness.
Types of Counselling
If you go to see a counsellor, there are several models of therapy to choose from. I’m going to focus on two of the most well known ones:
- Person-Centred Therapy
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
A Person-Centred counsellor will focus on the here and now in client sessions, inviting you to choose what you want to talk about each week. The sessions are focused on the client’s frame of reference and the counsellor will work at your pace. The counsellor won’t consciously plan or structure the sessions, however, he/she may share information such as useful reading or self-help techniques if you feel you may benefit, based on discussions during the session.
Person Centred Counselling is about helping you to clarify confused feelings and thoughts, identify your strengths and make use of the resources which you already have. Fundamentally, the counsellor’s role is to help you discover more about yourself (i.e.raise your self-awareness) and to learn to accept who you are, as well as taking responsibility for yourself and the decisions you make. Ultimately, the aim of person-centred counselling is to enable you to find a more positive way of living your life.
A CBT therapist will work in a structured way, inviting you to take a pro-active role in the therapy. They will ask you to explore your negative thought processes and how they affect your ability to cope with issues. You will also be given “homework” tasks and sessions will be used to reflect on these. The therapist works on the basis that our thoughts affect our mood and consequent behaviour, often those thoughts stem from our negative Core Beliefs about ourselves. From the start, the therapist will encourage you to focus on practical goal-setting. CBT is recommended for specific issues such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Phobias and Social Anxiety, which require a logical structured approach.
So, when should you go to see a counsellor?
If you have a problem or issue, which you have been struggling with for some time and:
- It’s not going away
- You feel you’ve reached a crisis point
- It’s impacting on your ability to focus at work and at home
- Anxiety is affecting your ability to cope on an everyday level
- You feel guilty and to blame for the issues which are making you unhappy
- You know that you’re not happy, but don’t know what to do about it
- You’ve reached a cross roads in your life, but you don’t know which way to turn
- You don’t want to burden family or friends
Then, talking to a Counsellor can help you to explore what’s going on inside your head. Sometimes, simply having the opportunity to say things out loud will help to clear all those confusing thoughts and feelings which can overwhelm you at times. Also, being in a room with someone who isn’t going to judge or criticize you, or offer their point of view, is truly liberating, once you build up a trusting relationship with them. It takes courage to ask for help, but once you’ve taken that first step, you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.
Counselling is also about making choices. You can choose which counsellor you want to see and choose the type of therapy which suits you best. You can choose to change the way you live your life or you can choose to stay the way you are.
It’s important to choose a counsellor who is fully qualified and experienced. If you find someone on the web, or they are recommended to you, always check them out on professional websites such as the ones I’ve listed below:
www.bacp.co.uk (British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy)
www.babcp.co.uk (British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies)