It fills me with a certain amount of hope that counselling, and support with mental health in general, is finally being seen in a more positive light. More than once I have heard people make comments along the lines of “Isn’t counselling just about chatting and having a moan?” and it makes me a little sad to hear it. That is like saying cake is just flour, eggs, butter and sugar. Technically this may be right, but the result is so much more than that.
Of course the primary purpose of counselling is to have someone who will really listen to you, will hear your story without judgement, and I have seen first-hand the power when someone feels that they have really been listened to. However, there is so much more to it than that.
A trained counsellor is able to help you make sense of things and to offer some possible ways to start making positive changes. He or she will have experience in pulling together the threads and offering new perspectives in how you look at areas of your life. Having an unbiased ear and views which are not emotion based allows you the space to uncover those hidden areas which may be causing you pain and uncertainty.
Sometimes you may have done things a certain way for so long that you cannot imagine another way to do it. You might be caught in a repeating cycle that does you more harm than good. A counsellor can help to shine a light on these areas and support you to consider what you could do differently and how you can develop the skills needed. A counsellor doesn’t, usually, just sit there listening and saying nothing. They can help you facilitate new ways of being and encourage you to give it a go.
A counsellor can also help highlight the good parts of you that often get forgotten in the mix of normal day to day stuff. It is too easy to notice where you might have got it wrong, or parts of you that you consider to be flaws, and without taking the time to notice the good bits, you can become low in mood, have a negative view of yourself and your confidence drops through the floor. The right counsellor can help you look at all angles, be aware of your good qualities and to build on your strengths.
So yes I suppose counselling could be seen as just chatting and moaning, but as with everything else in life, you will only get out of it what you put in. If you are open to new possibilities, feel ready to start looking at why life does not quite feel right and are prepared to put in the emotional work needed, chatting and moaning become the smallest part of what it is about. We all need a good rant now and then, and coffee with a friend is a good place for that. If you are ready to do more than that, and really want to improve your life and how you view yourself, a good counsellor can help you do that. I will listen to your rants, hear the pain that situations cause you, and will support you to begin doing it differently. Counselling, at the right time for you, really could change your life.