I have lost count of how many times I’ve heard, “how can talking about your problems actually help?” Or, “You must be able to tell your clients what to do as their counsellor, that’s your job isn’t it?” Now, I know that these statements usually come from a persons view of counselling, and the ideas they have in their minds, maybe a therapist from a TV show has demonstrated this way of being. But in real life, in the counselling room, it’s so different.
Counselling can be the hardest job to measure, after all how do we know what we are doing is effective, is there a way to measure a persons mental wellbeing throughout their course of therapy. Of course there are things like assessment tools and questionnaires you can give to measure emotional moods, yet do these speak the truth, or will clients avoid ticking a box relating to self harm or suicidal thoughts.
Relationship is key for growth and movement in the counselling room. If a client feels safe and can connect fully with their counsellor, they will feel a lot more at ease with exploring and expressing their feelings and needs, and will more than likely feel okay with ticking the box that they once may have avoided.
I’ve had clients who have shared the views about how talking can‘t possibly help, after all it’s hard to change what’s already happened, and often they struggle to fully let go in the counselling room. Yet through exploration, clients can begin the process towards self acceptance. They can learn to accept that some things remain outside of their control, and begin to process some of their own responsibilities and tackle some obstacles, that may be getting in the way.
There are many ways clients can begin the process of exploration, it doesn’t have to be sitting opposite a counsellor, having to find the right words to explain how there’re feeling. Sometimes that may feel quite intense for some. For me, exploration can be about getting creative, using arts, sand, objects, or simply a pen and a piece of paper, to unpick and explore what is going on for my clients.
A counsellors supervision plays such an important role in the work we do with clients. When we sit with clients and encourage, sometimes gently challenge them to explore, express, and process some of their darkest and most hidden feelings, we are witnessing a growth. Yet, if we don’t gently challenge ourselves in the same way, how can we possibly be present whilst our clients do?
Exploration has many layers and doesn’t just happen for our clients in their weekly counselling sessions, it’s the stuff in between, the reflections, the connections you may make as a client or as a counsellor. It’s in these moments of real exploration and connection that growth can occur.
When someone says “what’s the point in talking, it won’t change anything” just ask them to sit with that and explore their thinking, rather than encouraging a change in their thoughts. This in itself can unearth a whole heap of feelings and experiences.
This is the power of exploration!
Ruth Cullinan – Counsellor MBACP (Reg.)