10 Myth-Busting Facts About Counselling
Updated: May 17
I have received various queries regarding what my role is and how and what happens in the room. These questions are real and i aim to demystify what the counselling process is:
1. Counsellors are trained professionals?
On the most part yes but currently in the UK anyone can set up a website and offer counselling because the term counsellor isn’t legally protected. It is important if you are looking for a counsellor that they are registered and accredited by a organisations like BACP / UKCP. Don’t be afraid to ask a counsellor what their experience is and where they have trained.
2. Isn’t counselling just talking and someone giving you advice or talking at you?
Counsellors will be vigilant if sessions have a “chatty - advice” quality. Counselling should have the right amount of challenge and tension. Boundaries are in place to ensure the relationship is different from a friend, and that it is professional. Counselling is about raising self-awareness, developing the language of self-responsibility and enabling you to move from a place of surviving to thriving.
3. Counselling is really expensive.
Yes and No - counselling is a financial and time commitment. However, most counsellors offer concessions for clients on a low income or students. Google your local area for low-cost counselling services. Ask your G.P or work place if they have any offers on counselling that can be financially discounted through the workplace or via NHS.
4. In couple therapy doesn’t the counsellor take sides and why do I need an outside person to tell me what is happening in my relationship?
This is a common block as to why couples do not seek therapy as they fear the counsellor will take sides or judge. A good counsellor should stay objective, notice any unconscious pulls to take sides. Coming to therapy can be in conflict with the need to present a picture of perfection to the outside world. Often people minimise or deny difficult feelings and this is another barrier that stops people seeking counselling. Couples can go around in the same argument for many years and a 60 minute session enables couples to hear each other differently and see a fresh perspective. Still unsure, check out podcast by couple therapist - Esther Perel’s live couples’ counselling sessions – "Where Should We Begin?"
5. Doesn’t counselling go on for a long time?
The counselling work can be short term or long term. I am towards getting you out of therapy by offering reviews and reflecting on how the work is going. You can stop therapy at any time as the counselling work is led by the client. Often first year in therapy is about trust, the second year is revisiting topics and gaining more awareness and embedding the work. Counselling can take place from 6 sessions to a few years.
6. As a counsellor don’t you get fed up of hearing people who are depressed?
This is an interesting question, firstly I don’t “just listen or offer tea and sympathy”. I actively listen, appropriately challenge and take a genuine vested interest in showing my client any potential blocks or blind spots to how they could empower themselves. But aren’t you paid to care? I acknowledge a financial payment does happen to cover costs of the room, supervision but how I am in the room is not paid for. It is an amazing opportunity to work with clients who trust me on their journey exploring difficult feelings and vulnerabilities’. I co-create a safe space with my client that is unique and sacred. Depression, anger all taboo stuff is what I really thrive working with as I see change and that is very exciting to witness.
7. Counselling is for people who are suicidal?
This is another assumption that stops people from accessing counselling, is that its for people who have mental health issues. I am awe-struck how much clients bear emotional pain and stress before accessing therapy. Often people who have grown up with critical scripts feel they don’t deserve to be in therapy or minimise their feelings. Counselling in an ideal world should be available to everyone – no need to justify - simply a space to explore and reflect. A great book which has short stories with real clients is by Stephen Groz - The Examined Life.
8. What happens if I become reliant on the counsellor?
During the initial stages of therapy it is normal to feel a sense of urgency and dependency. I strive to empower you, we will work together to develop a set of skills that works for your personality and lifestyle post-therapy.
9. How do you not take work home with you or be able to separate your stuff from what a client brings?
I attend supervision, peer support, CPD workshops and this enables me to process the work, attend to any blind spots and ensures I am working ethically. I practice good self-care. I find the work incredibly powerful, life affirming and rewarding. It is one of the few places authentic dialogue can happen. I witness change happen and that is a privilege to work with on a daily basis.
10. I have tried counselling and it didn't work for me?
If counselling hasn't worked for you, be curious as to how you ended with your counsellor. Is there any unfinished business? Things that didn't get said. Did you try someone else. Similar to any investment, have a shop around if that counsellor wasn't right, could you try something else music therapy? art? or acupuncture? There is a whole range of opportunities that can enhance your well being and trust your gut that you will find something suitable for your needs.
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