Sometimes life is challenging, presenting issues that prevent happiness, impede wellbeing and success, and lower self esteem. Seeking help at such times can be daunting, however, talking to someone in a safe, confidential and non-judgemental environment can help you to explore what is troubling you in order to resolve problems and reach personal goals. Counselling can help you put the pieces of the puzzle, the product of anxieties, issues and problems, back together.
Counselling is a talking therapy, allowing individuals to discuss problems, behaviours and thought processes that impact on, and prevent happiness and future planning. It is different from other types of help where the individual may become the object of assessment and/or diagnosis. The basis of all good counselling is good objective listening, which can help clients discover more about themselves, their strengths and weaknesses, priorities and values. Focus on the individual and his/her ability for self-awareness makes the person entering counselling the most important one in the room and is the aim of a good therapist.
A good therapist will not minimise your problems, will be supportive and will respect any efforts you make to try to work out problems.
There are many therapeutic approaches/models and you may have heard of some of them (some may not be familiar to you). The multiplicity of these approaches can be confusing for anyone who wishes to access counselling, so I thought explaining a few of the main ones may help untangle the complexity.
Here are the main types of approach:
Directive and non-directive
A directive approach is indicated where clients wish for the counsellor to help with strategies and direction. In this case, the counsellor takes a more active role, guiding the client towards the right path. (See Cognitive Behaviour Therapy).
A non-directive approach is one in which the counsellor takes a less active role with regards to providing the client with solutions. The counsellor implementing a non-directive approach by being an active/sympathetic/interested listener will help guide the client towards examination of his/her own nature, thereby realising underlying conflicts, consequentially becoming capable of making his/her own decisions. (See Person Centred Therapy)
Some of the main models of counselling
(All models of counselling reply on the client/counsellor relationship, trust, empathy, unconditional positive regard/being non-judgemental and rapport between the client and counsellor)
Person Centred Therapy
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy
Person Centred Therapy
This form of therapy was devised by Carl Rogers (more can be found about him on www.bapca.org.uk) and suits clients who respond well to nurturing; those who want choice over their own decisions and in the direction of the counselling process. If you do not wish to be taught skills, but prefer to arrive at your own decisions and develop your own solutions to problems in a non-judgemental atmosphere, then Person Centred Therapy will suit you.
This is a non-directive therapy and is focused on the belief that all human beings possess their own internal sources for growth, an ability to discover their own strengths and potential to create a positive and more satisfying future. Person Centred Counselling allows security for the client to explore and develop individual potential without fear of judgement. One of the advantages of this form of counselling therapy is that it enables clients to feel liberated in order that they become active in the process of achieving self-actualisation (their true self).
Person Centred therapy is a collaborative and supportive form of counselling. The core conditions of Person Centred Therapy: empathy, unconditional postive regard [prizing the client and feeling positively towards him/her and non-judgemental acceptance of the client's experience and disclosures] and congruence [consistency between thoughts and feelings of the counsellor and his/her professional demeanour = honesty], are the basis of all therapeutic approaches. These core conditions help to encourage the counsellor to develop skills that are fundamental to all therapeutic relationships and inherent in most, if not all approaches/models.
Cognition Behaviour Therapy (CBT)
CBT is an "active-directive, collaborative approach." (Branch & Dryden, 2008) When undertaking this form of counselling, clients can expect sessions to be focused, structured and goal orientated. Exercises are given for homework between sessions; involving tasks that help clients to develop strategies to change the way they think about issues causing distress, in turn altering feelings and consequently behaviour(s). E.g A client may experience debilitating anxiety about meeting new people, because thoughts surrounding such events are, "no one will like me." Feelings of fear and anxiety ensue when the individual has to go to social events. Behaviour is, that the client avoids social outings, limiting life experience and the chances to have a more fulfilling life.
CBT counsellors believe that dysfunctional thinking about events and other's behaviour directly impacts on how individuals feel and thus alters their own behaviour and reactions. According to CBT counsellors interpretation of experiences have a greater effect on individual emotional reactions than events themselves.
A CBT approach aims to provide clients with strategies with which to deal with presenting issues in order to help alter perception of these issues.
A Psychodynamic Therapy
This approach is non-directive. The counsellor takes a less active role with regard to there being little/no focus on task setting. It also tends to be less time limited and in this respect has more in common with Person-Centred and Integrative Therapy.
The counsellor will build a the therapeutic relationship through exploration of past issues. A psychodynamic counsellor, in brief, is concerned with the way in which the client's past impacts on present feelings, behaviours and thoughts. He/she will help the client make links between the past and the presenting issue and explore the client's sense of self in relation to his/her past. The counsellor will endeavour to achieve a dialogue between the client's present and his/her past and move towards a resolution through counselling.
Psychodynamic therapists feel that aspects of childhood experiences, sometimes embedded within the unconscious mind, and thus out of range of conscious thought, have an effective on how clients react to issues/events in the present. Psychodynamic counselling, through talking about both the present and the past, helps the client bring the past into the conscious mind. Awareness of reasons for reactions to present events/behaviour helps clients address issues and change behaviours.
This approach, along with PCT, informs the approach of many Integrative counsellors.
This approach utilises aspects of the aforementioned models depending on client's situation and preference. Counsellors practised in this model, understand that, whilst each model has value, not every model is applicable to every situation or client or at every stage of his/her life.
An integrative counsellor makes judgements about the different models of psychotherapy and will, where and when appropriate, utilise each model at a varying stages of the counselling process. For example, a client who presents with OCD may need strategies with which to deal with behaviour in the immediate present, whilst gaining help to alter thinking in relation to what may happen if the OCD behaviours are not carried out: this client may respond very positively to CBT and thus the integrative counsellor may use this modality to help with immediate issues, whilst later examining the client's past to help identify where the OCD behaviour originates (Psychodynamic).
This multi-modal approach is predominantly Person Centred and non-directive; such counsellors will use the core skills of empathy, unconditional positive regard and honesty (congruence).
This is just a brief explaination of some of the models available to counsellors: there are many others but it would be too complex (and even confusing) to consider these. I just wanted you to have a basic understanding of some of the approaches you may be offered whilst looking for a counsellor.
Branch, Rhena; Dryden, Windy (2008)The Cognitive Behaviour Counsellling Primer Ross on Wye: PCCS Books