January, typically a time of healthy eating, exercise programmes and good intentions. It’s also a time when many of us look to improve our mental health. Whether it’s because of a new year’s resolution or because of a desperate need after a difficult Christmas, it’s extremely common for people to look for counselling at this time.
It can be hard to know what is right or wrong in the world of counselling. Sometimes we hear negative things about other people’s experiences, which can be off putting. Or we may have had an unrewarding experience ourselves.
I’ve compiled a list of some of the issues I occasionally hear about counselling and counsellors. Perhaps by looking at these experiences more closely, they might not seem relevant to you after all. Or, if you have already experienced any of these issues, or if you do encounter them down the road, then they might not seem so insurmountable.
‘We talk about a lot of things that never seem to go anywhere’
If you are experiencing this in your counselling, it can be put down to a few different things.
The counsellor’s style may be to talk in a general manner and only focus on certain things that seem relevant or important at certain times. Or it may be early days where the counsellor is still trying to get a sense of you and what brings you to counselling. Often talking in a general way helps this process.
Still, you may not be suited to the counsellor or this type of counselling. You may work better with a more-structured, more-focused counselling style.
That said, you may be reluctant to look deeper at the issues that bring you to counselling and are colluding with your counsellor in not finding a particular focus for fear of what that may bring up for you. It would be good to tell your counsellor that you are struggling with this.
Your counsellor should have an overview of how the counselling is progressing, which you may not be able to see. Speak to them about your concerns. If you are not satisfied with the response, consider finding another counsellor.
‘It is too expensive’
Yes, counselling can be expensive. It is one of the more common reasons I hear people give for not going to or continuing with counselling.
It comes down to what you prioritise or value in your life. If you are struggling and your mental health is low counselling will be worth the investment. It is up to you to make the decision based on your own personal reasons for wanting counselling and your current financial situation.
If you wish to continue with your counselling but finances are the genuine reason for not been able to do so, speak about it with your counsellor, as they may be able to offer you a reduced fee for a certain number of sessions. Or it may be appropriate to meet less frequently for a while. Alternatively, you could take a break and come back to counselling at a later date.
Some services offer lower-cost counselling, but you may need to be prepared to go on a waiting list for an appointment, and the counselling may be limited to a certain number of sessions.
‘My problems are not too bad’
Thinking thoughts like ‘Others may need the counsellor’s time more than me’ is common among those with low self-worth. This is where you de-value your problems and yourself.
If your problems are bad for you, and they are causing you distress it is worth going to counselling. Let your counsellor worry about finding time for others.
‘I started counselling to feel better, not worse’
Counselling can be draining for some, but remember, if the counselling is good and it’s working, it is going to be hard. Feeling pain in this way isn’t always a bad thing, especially if you can see where it comes from and how experiencing it might help you to eventually feel better.
Remember to mind yourself after a counselling session and not do anything too taxing.
These are just some of the struggles people find in the counselling process but there are many more. Remember if you are in counselling or thinking about starting, make it work for you. Trust your gut, ask lots of questions, speak up when it is not right, and don’t be disheartened if one counsellor didn’t work for you. Another might.
Looking after your mental and physical health are the most important things you will do for a good quality of life, so invest wisely.
Printed in The Mayo News on 05 January 2016