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What is counselling and how does it help?

Updated: Jul 21, 2019


Life in Harmony's counselling room. Peterborough.


These are questions I hear a lot. Alongside comments like ‘it’s not for me’ ‘How can talking help? ‘What’s the point, surely when you stop counselling you go back to the way you were?

First and foremost, what is counselling? Counselling is a talking therapy. It is where the counsellor has trained for several years to learn about people. What makes them tick, how do they learn things, what are their personality traits. How can they be supported to regain autonomy – their own choices and strengths. As well as training counsellors also spend many, many hours gaining counselling experience. The counsellor will be empathic. Able to understand your deep emotions. They will be non-judgemental. Knowing that everyone has a right to their own thought and feelings. They are real to each and everyone of us. They may not be the same, but that is why we are all unique. This non-judgment allows counsellors to sit and listen to a person and for that person to know they can say anything.


Sometimes we are restricted to say what we really feel because of others not understanding. Not seeing where we are coming from. Not realising that those thoughts and feelings are genuinely distressing, confusing and often scary. How often have you sat down with one of your closest friends. Something is going on in your life, abuse, feeling suicidal, grief stricken or crippling anxiety. Yet when you go to say something you are held back. Worried about upsetting them because they too know the person you are grieving. They may have suffered abuse or the thought of saying out loud you have this overwhelming anxiety or are feeling suicidal may send them running or telling you ‘you don’t really feel like that'. It isn’t that they don’t support you or care, it is because they care and that sometimes gives an invisible emotional barrier. We care for each other, so we protect each other’s feelings. This is why counselling works. We don’t have to protect the counsellor’s feelings in that way and we can, without judgement say what we feel or think. There is something so cathartic about opening the inner most thoughts that we hold.


How does counselling then help? In counselling you build up a relationship with the counsellor. Trust builds and you find you are able to say out loud those deep dark thoughts. Those experiences as a child you had, the anger that builds inside or that depression that is so crippling you cannot get out of bed in the morning. The counsellor works with you to explore these feelings. They do not solve it for you, you do that, but they listen, sometimes they give you things to do in the session or at home. They may feed back what you say. All of this helps you work out what to do and in turn how to cope with things and helps you to understand why you have these feelings. With that understanding comes relief. Knowing you are not ‘mad, bad or sad’ and that you are normal. As this understanding grows the mind starts to clear and you find your way forward. It may all sound easy, but it isn’t and that is why counselling is so important and so helpful. You have non-judgemental, empathic support.

Counselling is good for a wide range of issues. Depression, anxiety, OCD, bereavement, abuse, addiction, self harm and suicide. It can help when you are going through a relationship breakdown or to help re align the relationship. Work and home life balance, school or university life, sexuality and gender concerns. Don’t ever feel you have too much to tell someone or that it isn’t ‘bad’ enough to talk about. Whatever is worrying you or creeping into your head in the middle of the night may benefit from counselling support. By talking it through and having it out in the open the mind then has time to manage other things and again our strength returns. We know we can do it and get through it.


Gail Wright, Life in Harmony Counselling, Peterborough

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