Helpful guide for people considering counselling

It can be an anxious time thinking about starting counselling and a difficult task to find a counsellor that it a good fit for you.  The idea for this blog is to help people considering counselling by providing a broad description of what counselling is, the different types of counselling and how it can help people. People often do not fully understand what counselling is, so I hope this might help some people by providing an explanation.

What is counselling?

Counselling is a form of “talking therapy” and can generally be considered a psychological therapy.  While there are different types of counselling therapies to suit different issues, or “presenting problems”, for many clients counselling can offer a safe and confidential space to talk about problems which they can’t discuss otherwise.  Many issues are difficult to discuss with family or friends for a variety of reasons, including embarrassment, fear of being judged, or due to fear of relying on friends or family, which can have a knock-on effect and impact on existing relationships. Counselling is removed from all of these issues as the counsellor is a neutral person in the client’s life, allowing a space for the client to explore their own thoughts with an independent, unbiased and impartial person. 

Counselling can be useful for anyone who wants to explore the way they are thinking or feeling further. It may also be helpful for anyone experiencing a problem or issue they are keen to resolve. For me, an important part of counselling is helping the client explore and see their issues in a different light.  This can help increase the client’s self-awareness and understanding of themselves.  

How can counselling help?

A common misconception about counselling is that counsellors can provide clients with advice and help them find a solution to their problems.  Contrary to this, counsellors do not give advice or have a toolbox or checklist of things to do to help clients feel better.  Counsellors do help clients gain a better insight and understanding of their own struggles and help provide them with the tools to overcome their problems on their own.  The goal of all counsellors is to help clients manage their problems independently.  

Clients differ drastically on how many sessions they need.  However, a single session is rarely enough to overcome client’s difficulties.  Regular sessions are usually required.  With my clients, I regularly review their progress and listen carefully to what the client thinks is helping and working and what they want to work on further.  This helps ensure that the counsellor and client are working together to achieve the same goal. This also shows the client what progress they have made so far.

Counselling aims to help the client better understand themselves and the way that they react to and interpret situations.  This can help them develop a clearer understanding of their problems.  The more armed with understanding and self-awareness, the better clients can understand themselves and navigate their way through any difficulties they face.  Eventually, clients can come out the other side and feel more positive about themselves and their own abilities.

Different types of counselling.

There are several distinct and different types of counselling therapies.  Which type of therapy best suits a client depends on their client’s individual issues.  For instance, clients who had a difficult childhood may wish to see a psychotherapy counsellor, as they focus more on how psychological difficulties often related to childhood experiences.  On the other hand, a client currently experiencing problems at work or in their personal life may wish to see a more humanistic counsellor, as they focus more on the here and now. 

I am a humanistic or person-centred counsellor, so I mainly focus on the client’s current problems in the here and now.  However, I also consider myself an integrative counsellor.  This means that I take elements of different types of counselling where appropriate depending on the client’s situation.  For instance, I sometimes explore a client’s childhood if they feel it is impacting their current problems.  I also often use art therapy methods to explore aspects of a client’s presenting problems, particularly if it is difficult for the client to verbally discuss their feelings.  This has been very successful at enabling clients to explore their difficulties a lot deeper.  

A good list of all the different types of counselling can be found here:

I hope this blog has helped people understand what counselling is and how it can help.


Image courtesy of the Practice Rooms in Bath.

Image courtesy of the Practice Rooms in Bath.