How to recognise good counselling
Text © 2019 Jim Holloway
To counsel someone generally means ‘to give advice’, but therapeutic counselling is actually more about careful listening and reflecting. As your counsellor, my main aim is to talk with you purposefully to enable two key things to happen:
Many people who come for counselling say they feel better just for being listened to properly. The counselling conversation works very well at this basic level because an effective counsellor is an active listener. As this skilled, deep listening is also respectful, non-judgemental and confidential it creates the right conditions for free and honest expression of whatever is troubling you.
The direct psychological benefit of this experience is evidenced by how often people say they feel ‘lighter’ after a counselling session.
Secondly, you gain the opportunity to reflect aloud on what you’re saying and feeling, and receive unbiased feedback, all of which can extend or refresh your self-knowledge and lead to new insight.
Talking openly with another person about your thoughts and feelings is usually more productive than trying to understand or analyse them in your head alone. Being well listened to in the counselling conversation can lead you to ‘hear yourself’ a little differently, and this response could bring about a helpful change in how you view the problem you’re facing.
Even if you’re not looking for a new perspective, time spent in focused reflective dialogue with a counsellor very often clarifies the nature of the problem and identifies your best personal resources to deal with it.
At the initial appointment, if you decide to come for further counselling with me on a regular basis, we will discuss what you want to achieve and how many sessions might be needed. Some people start with 5 or 6 and find that is enough; others decide to make the commitment for up to 20 weeks or much longer. (If regular weekly sessions are not possible because you work shifts or your job involves travelling, in most cases I’m able to be flexible to suit your requirements.)