Counselling is an active process and a positive outcome depends largely on the degree to which you are willing to commit to it. Counselling is not a quick fix solution, it is more of a process through which you can come to a greater understanding and acceptance of yourself and your relationships with others. From this process will emerge possibilities for change, enabling you to engage in a more satisfying way with the world around you.
Facing the pain
Uncomfortable emotions and thoughts can arise as part of the process, and you may (or may not) feel quite emotionally drained and heavy by the end of a session. Counselling does not always feel good at the beginning. After a few sessions, however, you should begin to feel lighter. An effective counselling relationship requires commitment and co-operation from both client and the counsellor. It requires a commitment to change.
Over time, you should become more aware of your self and others, more aware of who you are and what is important to you, and more aware of your feelings and behaviours and their impact on yourself and others. You should also feel more comfortable in talking about yourself and your feelings; you and others might notice that your communication skills have improved. You might begin to identify short term goals to achieve between sessions.
As counselling progresses, longer-term goals may emerge, along with some ideas about how to progress toward these goals. Effective counselling results in personal growth and self awareness that empowers you to take control of your life and enjoy positive, life-affirming relationships with others. Some people only need a few sessions to get to this stage, whereas for others, it may take much longer.
Clients who attend regular weekly sessions, especially in the early days, seem to get more out of the counselling than those whose attendance is less regular. However, if you have to attend fortnightly, perhaps for financial reasons, you will still benefit. Commitment to the process is what is most important, along with making the counselling a priority, especially in the early stages. If you find yourself missing sessions without good reason, or that you are reluctant to go, ask yourself why. Are you avoiding talking about something painful? Are you telling yourself that counselling won’t work for you? Are you annoyed with your counsellor? Talk about it – your counsellor will be non-defensive and will work through the issue with you in a constructive way.
Time for Reflection
Spend time between sessions reflecting on what was discussed in the previous session. Reflect on how you’re feeling on a daily basis this will help you to feel more comfortable talking about your feelings. You might find it useful to keep a journal for this purpose.
Take time before each session to consider your expectations for that session. This will help you to be able to focus on a particular issue earlier in the session, rather than taking most of the session to pinpoint that issue, and then running out of time to explore it more.
Honesty and openness
Be honest and open; if there’s something you want to say, say it. Share what you are feeling. Or if you feel that you’re avoiding a particular issue, then tell your counsellor. It can be really useful to look at avoidance. If you feel embarrassed or ashamed, or something is too painful to talk about, don’t be afraid to tell your therapist. Slowly, you can work together to get at the issues.
Be an active participant. This is your counselling process; the sessions are client-led, so don’t be afraid to be an active and confident leader!
Be patient with yourself and with the process. Growth takes time, effort, and patience. All of your coping skills, behaviour patterns and self-perceptions have been learned and reinforced over a long period of time. Changing what has become such an integral part of yourself is very difficult and at times slow. By having patience, and accepting and understanding the natural resistance we all feel towards change, you set the foundations for developing and changing, and for ultimately living your life in a more appropriate and satisfying way.