Making the most of counselling

Thank you for your interest in my service. You may find the following information helpful to consider how you can get the most from your sessions:

Counselling is an opportunity to work on things in your life, and to find more satisfying and rewarding ways of living. Research shows that counselling can be very helpful for many people, and that most clients leave counselling or psychotherapy feeling much better than when they started. However, research also shows that the more you know about counselling before you start, and the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. For this reason, I have provided the following information to tell you more about the counselling I offer, and how you can make it as helpful as possible for you.

A counselling ‘menu’

There are many different ways how I can help you. I like to think of myself as providing you with a counselling ‘menu’, so that you can decide, with my support, what you would most like to work on. Some of the issues that clients often choose to focus on are:

  • talking through an issue in order to make sense of what has happened, and to put things in perspective;
  • making sense of a specific problematic event that sticks in your mind;
  • problem-solving, planning and decision-making;
  • challenging behaviour;
  • negotiating a life transition or developmental crisis;
  • dealing with difficult feelings and emotions;
  • finding, analysing and acting on information
  • undoing self-criticism and enhancing self-care;
  • dealing with difficult or painful relationships.

Often clients find it most helpful to work on these issues on a step-by-step basis. One of the ways that counselling may help is that I can work with you to disentangle the various strands of the problem, and help you to decide what needs to be dealt with first.

A flexible, personalised approach to helping you

The counselling that I offer is based on the belief that people who come for counselling are experts on their own lives (even if they don’t feel like they are), who have lots of potentially good ideas about how to deal with their problems. One of the main roles of a counsellor, as I see it, is to help the person to make best use of their own experience and understanding.

This means that my approach to counselling is to try to be as flexible as possible in responding to your needs. What I find (this is backed up by research) is that different people are helped in different ways. For instance, what some people find most helpful in counselling is to express their feelings – sadness, anger, fearfulness. Other people find it more helpful to take a rational approach to their problems, and use counselling to ‘think things through’. People can shift, over the course of counselling, from finding one kind of activity helpful, to then preferring to work in a different way with their counsellor.

I also try to be as flexible as possible around the practical arrangements for counselling. Most people attend for a one-hour session at the same time each week. For other people, this kind of arrangement may not fit with their lifestyle or emotional needs. Please feel free to discuss with me if you want to meet more often or less often, or for longer or shorter sessions. There may be constraints on what I can offer, in terms of my schedule, but I will do my best to accommodate your needs.

Flexibility also applies to the number of counselling sessions that you receive. Some people come for one or two sessions and find that this is enough to put them ‘on the right track’. Other people attend counselling for many months. What is important is to do what is best for you personally. One of the options is what we call intermittent counselling – if you have some sessions and then want to stop, you can always come back at any time in the future and pick up where you left off.

The following sections look at some ways you can prepare yourself to get the most benefit from the counselling you receive.

Thinking about what you want from counselling

It is important for me to know what it is that you want to achieve in counselling – what your goals are. Your goals are a kind of ‘contract’ or agreement between you and your counsellor, which specify what you want from me. If you go to a furniture store to buy a new sofa, then the visit will have failed if you come home with a new bed, or a new carpet, no matter how attractive these objects might be. It is the same in counselling – a good outcome of counselling depends on getting what you came for.

At the start of counselling, most people find it hard to be clear about exactly what it is that they want to achieve. They have maybe only a vague sense of what they hope to get from counselling. This is perfectly normal – I will encourage you to talk about your goals, and gradually they will become clearer. It is fine to have lots of goals, or just one goal. It is fine for your goals to change. What is important is to let me know what it is that you want from counselling.

One of the ways that you can get the most out of counselling is to spend some time on your own thinking about your goals, before the first session, and between sessions. It can be useful to write your goals on a piece of paper, so you don’t forget them. It is useful to keep me updated if your goals change.

Thinking about what you think will be most helpful for you

As mentioned earlier, there are big differences between people in respect of what they find helpful in counselling. There is little point in me trying to work with you to tackle a problem in a particular way if you think that the approach being taken is a waste of time! It is very useful, therefore, if you can think about what you believe might work best for you, and share these ideas with me. You can do this by thinking back to times when you have had problems before, and identifying what was helpful, or not helpful for you these times. You might also think about what you have heard from friends or family members, or seen on the TV, about how counselling can help. For instance, some people find it useful to be taught how to behave in different ways, others find it useful to ‘blow off steam’ and, for others, what is most useful is to try to solve problems in practical ways. Whatever you think is most helpful to you, I will try to help you with this.

Identifying your own personal strengths and resources

The counselling you are being offered is not interested in diagnosing or labelling you. Instead, I will assume that you possess a range of skills, experiences, relationships, and abilities that can be used to overcome your present problems. Part of my job is to help you to identify your existing strengths and resources, and work out how you can apply them in your current situation. It is useful if you can keep a list of your strengths and resources, and share this information with me.

Being active between counselling sessions

Between counselling sessions, I always review what happened in the last session, and think about what I might do in the sessions to come to take things forward. It is valuable if you do the same. Sometimes it can be helpful to work with me to agree ‘homework’, or ‘experiments’, or ‘projects’ that you could complete between sessions. Even if this doesn’t happen, it is still useful for you to think about what has come up in the counselling, whether you are getting what you need, how the counselling can be improved, and so on. It can be hard to remember these thoughts, and one option to consider is keeping a counselling diary, where you write about what the counselling has meant to you.

Giving feedback to your counsellor

Effectively tailoring the counselling to your specific needs is only possible if you are willing to give honest feedback to me. I genuinely want to help you, and do not want you to pretend that everything is OK when it isn’t.

If you are worried about anything – please ask

Finally, there may be other questions that are not covered on this website. If you have any further questions, please just ask me.

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