Why Would Anyone Talk To A Counsellor?

Let’s face it, approaching a Counsellor can seem a daunting prospect, especially if you are already in an anxious state of mind. So why would anyone talk to a counsellor? Some of the reasons given for not talking to one could be:-

• I should be able cope by myself
• I don’t want to talk about personal stuff with a stranger
• I don’t want someone giving me their opinion and advice
• I don’t have money to spare
• I don’t have the time

I should be able to cope by myself-

We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to cope, often with the underlying belief that we must be weak if we can’t. Yet in other areas of life we don’t hesitate to seek support. For instance, if your boiler broke down you most likely would get an expert engineer in to fix it. Counsellors usually go through at least 4 years of intensive training to be able to support people who are in emotional distress. There can be a lot of fear and shame associated with asking for help and it might seem easier for some to struggle on feeling stuck and unable to cope than to admit they need help.

I don’t want to talk about personal stuff with a stranger –

A key principle of counselling is that the person you are speaking to is not connected to your life outside the counselling room. This allows for a neutral space where you can talk openly without the fear of being judged for what you are saying. Talking to supportive family and friends can be helpful but we often factor in their feelings and judgements, which can mean we hold back from saying what we truly believe or feel. Trust is also important which is why it is important to choose a fully qualified counsellor who is a member of a recognised professional body (such as the BACP) and therefore works to their code of ethics in terms of confidentiality etc. All counsellors found on the Counselling Directory: http://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/ meet this standard.

I don’t want someone giving me their opinion or advice –

It can be very frustrating when you approach a friend or partner in the hope of getting their understanding and empathy but instead you get their opinion and/or advice. There is sometimes the misunderstanding that counselling involves explaining what your problem is and then the counsellor wisely sits back in their chair and tells you what you should do.

Counselling is about talking through what is going on for you and helping you gain the understanding and self-awareness to make choices, decisions and changes for yourself. For a more detailed explanation of What is Counselling and How It Works see: http://www.mariameadcounselling.co.uk/what-is-counselling/

I don’t have money to spare –

It is true that most counselling costs money. It is possible to get some free counselling through the NHS although there is usually a waiting list and the number of sessions are limited. Some charities also offer free support, which tends to be for specific issues, such as Cruse who deal with bereavement. The average cost for a 50 minute session of counselling in London is around £50. Many counsellors offer a limited number of reduced fee sessions for those unable to pay the full rate. We often spend money on things that give us short term happiness. Counselling is not a short term fix. It is a process through which we can discover the tools to be able to manage our emotions and anxieties more easily, to see things in proportion to how they are, to stop repeating destructive patterns of behaviour, to make better choices and ultimately to bring about more meaning and joy into our lives.

I don’t have the time

In an already jam packed week, finding time to get to see a counsellor can seem almost impossible for some. However, creating space and time in the week for your own well-being can make a big difference to your life. If you are used to prioritising others before yourself this might not come naturally to you. Hopefully you should be able to find someone close to your home via the Counselling Directory and many counsellors now offer on-line counselling which can save on both travel and time.

Having read this blog you may still be wondering why anyone would talk to a counsellor, and it is important to recognise that counselling isn’t for everyone. But for those who are ready to take a leap of faith and give it a try counselling could be the best investment you ever make in your life.

Knitting A New Life

In counselling it is common to hear the words “why does this keep happening to me?” and that is a fairly sure sign that actually, that thing that keeps happening, is to some extent, and probably unconsciously, in the control of the person asking the question. We create the patterns in our relationships with others, ourselves – often without even being aware that there is any pattern there at all.

When relationships feel like a tangled jumble of yarn, numbers, words, and painful emotions, it can help to stand back and look for the patterns. This can be very difficult alone, and someone who is not tangled up with you can very possibly see the patterns more clearly. They can then point out to you where you may be working on an algorithm that is creating a picture you don’t like, or where you have dropped stitches alon
g the way that you need to complete a picture. In seeing the picture and the pattern more clearly, you can then start to consider which parts of it you do like, and which you don’t. And with that new clarity, that understanding of what you are actively doing to elicit the responses you are getting, you can find yourself in a new position of control. You can go back to the algorithm, and you can tweak it to change the picture slightly (or even substantially) to suit you.

Because life isn’t actually a scarf, you can’t undo all that has gone before, but you can perhaps start to improve it; to make a new pattern that fits the way you live your life now. And with this new understanding of yourself and the way you relate to, and with others, you can add and drop, in ways that make you – and those who are important to you – feel good about the pattern of your relationships as they are now.

Thanks to Fiona Goldman.


How Can Bereavement Counselling help you?

However hard it is to move through the stages of grief, it is possible to shift from thinking of grief as “something that happens to you” to “grieving is something you do to heal”.

If you are looking to understand how bereavement counselling can help you, here is a summary of what you might expect from it:-

  • To help you, the bereaved, accept the loss by helping you talk about the loss.
  • To help you to identify and express feelings related to the loss, i.e. guilt, blame, shame, anger, anxiety, helplessness and sadness.
  • To help you to separate emotionally from the person who died and to take into consideration your own needs.
  • To provide support and time to reflect on grieving at significant times, such as birthdays and anniversaries.
  • To help you understand that the grief process is very individual and to provide continuous support, as necessary.
  • To help you understand your method of coping and what works best for you.
  • To idenfity coping problems you may be having, to address them and to make recommendations on any further course of action that may be necessary.
  • To address ways in which you can stay healthy and keep functioning.
  • To help you re-establish relationships with others who may be going through their own grief process in a different way to yours.
  • To help you develop a healthy image of yourself and the world.

Lessons in Life

How do you describe the strange limbo feeling when life slows down and everything around you fades away into insignificance? No-one teaches us what to do when life as we know it crumbles and we are left in the midst of ruin. Society has little time for our pain and yet we cannot see outside of it. We impose time limits and expectations on how long one is supposed to suffer.

Slowly, as I emerged from my own grief, I made a list of what I learned along the way and through therapy with my counsellor”    A. N.

  • I learned that my feelings cannot kill me, they will heal me.
  • I learned that sometimes it’s ok to just switch off and have a duvet day.
  • I learned that getting ‘closure’ doesn’t mean having all the answers and that I can live with not knowing.
  • I learned that I can play the ‘blame game’  till I’m blue in the face but that I became a stronger person when I stopped asking “why me?” and start asking “how is this blame helping me?”
  • I learned that I have a lot more to learn about myself.
  • I learned that the answers I was seeking outside of myself were to be found within.
  • I learned that there is nothing as precious as now, even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time.
  • I learned that I can never know what each day is going to bring but at its close, it’s up to me to know what the day brought.
  • I learned to cherish moments.
  • I learned that the pain does gradually subside.
  • I learned how to reach out to others.
  • I learned that crying is healing.
  • I learned there are no rules as to how I should grieve.
  • I learned that life is a journey, not a destination.
  • I learned to be grateful about things I used to consider as being of  insignificance.
  • I learned that however long the night, the dawn will break.




Adjusting to life after loss

We often find that much of our identity comes from our relationship with others. The loss of someone is often like losing a piece of ourselves, a limb perhaps. The closer we were to the person we lose the more of our self we need to redefine. How does a woman who calls herself a wife and mother for 25 years cope with losing her family in a car crash? How does a man cope with the death of the “love of his life” whom he was married to for 52 years?

We do not realise how much our lives are shaped by others until they are gone, leaving a residue of emptiness, hopelessness and despair. One of the first things to accept is that redefining your life is a process that involves soul searching, courage and faith and that it takes time. It’s not necessarily a case of totally letting go of who you were for you will always know what it is to be wife and mother or husband and provider or however else you may have defined yourself in your relationship and you will always relive the thoughts and actions that have shaped how you’ve seen yourself until now in your mind over and over again.  It’s about being able to adapt when the question “Now what?” arises. Destiny has chosen it’s own course and has ignored your plans. There is no wrong or right path to follow. For now, focus on what you do know about yourself and let that resonate with you for a while until you get your bearings.

In his book “Loss”, John Bowlby writes:

“Because it is necessary to discard old patterns of thinking, feeling and acting before new ones can be fashioned, it is almost inevitable that a bereaved person should at times despair that anything can be salvaged and, as a result, fall into depression and apathy. Nevertheless, if all goes well this phase may soon begin to alternate with a phase where the bereaved starts to examine the new situation and to consider ways of meeting it. This redefinition of self and situation is as painful as it is crucial, if only because it means relinquishing all hope that the lost person can be recovered and the old situation re-established. Yet until redefinition is achieved no plans for the future can be made.”

Each day will bring it’s own set of challenges. Take one step at at a time, it isn’t going to happen overnight. Redefining who you are can take many months and for many people it can take a lifetime. In time, you might find yourself engaging in a memory or thought that you enjoy. It may only be a fleeting moment of ‘peace’ but this becomes your first brick in rebuilding your shaky foundation. Notice what you like and dislike. Try out a new interest perhaps. Counselling can help you to  find the courage within if life just seems too overwhelming.

It may seem impossible at first, but step by step as you slowly start to re-build your life and re-visit memories with a mixture of both sadness and joy, you may wake up one day to find you are looking forward to what the day might bring instead of dreading it.