Counselling? What’s the point?

So, let’s be completely honest about this. Counselling is not for everyone. Despite the range of different counselling modalities out there, and an even wider range of counsellors to choose to work with, timing is everything. It takes a complete willingness on the part of the client to explore areas of their life they may not be used to talking about. Emotional or psychological distress can become buried, revealing itself in negative behaviours or unhelpful thoughts. 

Life experiences have left him or her feeling lost and confused. If such feelings are allowed to fester, the client can become entrenched in an emotional cycle that it is hard to break out of. It can take a huge amount of courage for a person to uncover, to face and to hold these feelings up to scrutiny, and reflect on whether these feelings, beliefs or behaviours still have a valid place in their life. That takes guts. It might be profoundly painful. Frequently the client can momentarily feel worse before they start feeling better. To undertake counselling is NOT easy. If you don’t feel ready, then save your money. It won’t work. Wait until you are ready, and it will be a more rewarding experience – a real opportunity for personal growth.

But the fact is (and I’m sure we’ve all heard that expression) ‘if nothing changes, then nothing changes’. Counselling, ultimately, is about exploring what is going on for you, and looking at what changes might be necessary for you in order that you might heal. Whether or not you implement them is entirely up to you. There can be an odd sort of comfort in sticking to what you’re used to, even if it isn’t actually doing you any good in the here and now.

But, as a practicing counsellor, I have frequently been humbled by the courage I’ve witnessed in clients as they engage in the process. It is an enormous privilege to have been entrusted with their stories, to provide a safe, empathic and non – judgemental space for them to reflect on their experiences. Life is noise. Life is full of other people’s chatter. I honestly believe that the true magic of counselling is when the client cuts out the external chatter and starts to really hear themselves. The illustrator Emily McDowell described the act of ‘finding yourself’ as “remembering who you were before the world got its hands on you”. I think that’s a pretty good description of counselling. 

In my experience, counselling is about empowerment. It’s about learning to trust yourself enough to make the decisions you want to make, rather than the ones you think you ought to make. Yes, it can be scary to let go of old habits, thoughts or beliefs that you’ve clung to for as long as you can remember. Just see it as having someone else’s music playing constantly on your record player (see, I’m showing my age now!). It’s time to switch it off and replace it with music of your own choosing. How good would it be to dance to your own tune?

Issy McCann, September 2019