Counselling seems to be a pretty mysterious process for most people. Unless things are REALLY bad, most people don’t think about counselling or think it’s too expensive or are just not sure how it works. Usually counselling is a last resort rather than a first stop for getting help. The general population just does not understand what the heck happens inside a counsellor’s office or how someone is supposed to get better when they see a counsellor.
I hope this article will clarify a bit further how counselling works and how clients change and improve their lives or relationships through counselling.
The process of counselling is not a magical process but rather an evidence and practice based way a counsellor uses counselling theory or theories to help clients. A Counselling theory is one that frames and tries to explain human behaviors and human problems that results from the way people think and act. From counselling theories there are interventions that are designed to help clients solve problems.
A professionally trained therapist has both the training in human development, psychopathy, personality development, social development and neurosciences to better be able to utilize and understand counselling theories and interventions. A professionally trained counsellor is listening and assessing a person through a counselling theory. This is part of how they organize and plan a session as well as what drives the types of questions they ask you or the things they may have you do in a therapy session.
Our therapist uses Choice Theory Reality Therapy as well as Gestalt Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Solution focused Therapy and Attachment theory to work with clients. Often many therapist will use several theories to help a client. The therapist’s first job is to help the client become aware of his/her behaviours, thoughts and beliefs that the client is using to make choices from and whether or not these are helpful to the client or his/her relationships.
Once a client is made aware of his/her beliefs, behaviours and thoughts and has evaluated them to be unhelpful, the client now has a choice to replace them with something new and more effective. Sometimes this process of examining a client’s beliefs, behaviours or thoughts can be a delicate process. Clients may find they do not like what they discover in the process or may be very surprised at how their behaviour or choices was negatively affecting them or being perceived negatively by loved ones. This is why it so important to trust your therapist and the process. Your counsellor is helping you to refine the things that are not as effective in your life and help you develop more effective ones so you can get your needs met.
A common misperception is that a counsellor is going to use a “Band-Aid” voice in which the therapist will just tell you everything is okay or just nod and listen in agreement. While clients may think they want this and in the moment that may feel good, the “Band-Aid” voice is one that just sooths things over but doesn’t actually help to resolve or solve things. Often our parents or good friends may use a “Band-Aid” voice. Rather a counsellor uses a voice of reason based in a lot of research and counselling theory that will help you to evaluate things and determine if they are working or not. The therapist will help you explore what you can do to do be more effective.
Another misperception is that a client must first figure out “WHY” he/she does something before he/she can change it. Often we don’t need to know why we do or did something to make a positive change in the present. Many clients can get stuck in the past trying to figure out the “WHY” and limit themselves in the present to making positive changes. Often what is most important is to understand “HOW” something that happened in the past is still affecting a person’s behaviour or choices in the present and if the person wants to continue to let the past have such a negative influence over their choices in the present.
The counselling process is a collaborative process between the client and therapist. Therapy is not done TO you but rather WITH you. Through the interchange between client and therapist the client grows and learns new skills to be more effective.
So how exactly does a client become aware of their thoughts, behaviours or beliefs? Often, it involves the therapist asking the client a lot of questions and redelivering back to the client what the client has said in a way that allows the client to gain new insight. In essence, the therapist is almost like a mirror reflecting back to the client their beliefs, actions and thoughts in a new way for the client to look at and evaluate and then ultimately decide what to do next.
As you can imagine, looking in the mirror we don’t always like what we see and therefore this can sometimes be uncomfortable for the client as they become more aware of certain behaviours, thoughts or beliefs that are not helpful or effective. The therapist is not there to judge the client, but rather help them to determine what is in the client's best interests based on what the client states they want and the contingencies and realities of the client’s life. A supportive, non-judgmental therapist will help the client to process through this and work with the client to determine what he/she would like to do about these less effective aspects of his/her life.
So now once you are aware of what isn’t working, then what? Well the next step is to try implementing and experimenting with new behaviours and thoughts in between sessions. The therapist will help guide clients with new ways of doing or thinking about things. This is the process part of counselling and why it takes several sessions to see improvement. As a client replaces very entrenched behaviours or thoughts with new ones, they will need support and may discover other issues that need “retooling” and refining.
Often as clients begin to replace less effective thoughts and behaviours with more effective ones, the client starts to feel a sense of hope, empowerment and improvement in quality of their own life and of their relationship ... depending on how hard the client is willing to work at looking him/herself and then try new out new behaviours and thoughts will determine how quickly or slow change comes about.
If you have any questions about how counselling would work for you or relationship, please contact us at 9030 7239to learn more.