What is Counselling?
Counselling offers you the opportunity to explore your difficulties in an entirely safe and confidential space without fear of judgement. You will be able to discuss the thoughts and feelings you have without having to consider the implications these might have on the people in your life who are close to you, and without the worry that somehow you are 'burdening' others with your worries.
The counselling relationship is one in which you are able to hear yourself (sometimes for the first time) and come to a deeper understanding of the reasons you are currently struggling. A counsellor will be your companion on this journey of self-discovery, guiding you through the process, and bearing witness to the emotions you may feel as you re-negotiate your relationship with yourself and others in your life. You will become aware of the obstacles to your wellbeing and gain a more authentic understanding of yourself.
There are a variety of counselling modalities which approach the therapeutic process differently, but are not necessarily dissimilar in their outcome, or in their understanding of human nature. The type of therapy a counsellor adopts, whether it is a single modality, or an integration of more than one, may reflect his or her own theoretical background and life experience.
Different therapies may suit different people and the type of counselling which is right for you may depend on your specific difficulties, or your preferred approach to resolving them.
More often than not, it is your relationship with your counsellor which is more important than the counselling approach they practice, as this is proven to be the most important factor in the therapeutic process.
I have briefly outlined the main Counselling approaches below:
Psychoanalytical and Psychodynamic Therapies
The focus in Psychodynamic counselling is on addressing problem thoughts, feelings and behaviours by identifying their unconscious meanings and motivations. There is a strong emphasis on the therapeutic relationship as this reveals much about the interactions of the client of the counselling room.
Transactional Analysis has it's roots in the Psychodynamic approach, and uses the idea of ego states to help people to understand the nature of their interactions with others.
These approaches, including Person-Centred Therapy, Gestalt Therapy, and Existential Therapy, are based on the belief that the individual has the capacity to make their own choices and achieve their full potential in order to live a meaningful life. In Person-Centred therapy, as in Psychodynamic counselling, the relationship is central to the work, and is considered the vehicle of change as it values the client's experience and their ability to discover what is right for them.
Humanistic therapies work with both the 'here and now' and past experiences, to help clients gain a deeper understanding of themselves.
Cognitive Therapies/ Behaviour Therapies
I have put these groups of therapies together as there are many of them and they have significant similarities and overlap. The most commonly known of these is Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) which is a combination of cognitive and behavioural techniques. This may involve behavioural exercises such as exposure therapy for anxiety and phobias, or relaxation techniques such as Mindfulness.
There is a strong emphasis in cognitive therapies on the effect our thoughts have on how we feel, and consequently, what we do... the multi-directional link between thoughts, feelings and behaviours. Clients are encouraged to examine their thinking styles and how they may result in incorrect assumptions and create obstacles to their wellbeing.
Many counsellors work with a 'core approach' and integrate different elements and techniques from other modalities which are consistent with their way of understanding human nature. This enables the therapist to remain flexible and adapt to the specific needs of their clients and the particular issues they may bring to counselling.
This is by no means an exhaustive list and there are many other types of counselling styles and techniques. A much more comprehensive list can be found at www.bacp.co.uk and at www.counselling-directory.org.uk