Clients typically come into counselling feeling in some way distressed, ‘weighed down’ or even overwhelmed by something that is happening in their life. They are often hoping to get back to ‘normal’, or to their ‘old self’.
My main role is to listen carefully and respectfully to what clients have to say and to feedback to them what I am hearing, so that we can develop a common understanding of what they are struggling with. Sometimes I may also point out aspects of the client’s situation which I think they may have missed – or that they might think about in a different way.
This may sound simple and yet it can turn out to be challenging. Our struggles in life are normally complex and often difficult to talk about. It can be very easy to feel misunderstood or uneasy as we share our story with another person - particularly when we are speaking about things for the very first time, or when we have spoken about them before but not got the response we wanted.
So talking can be challenging and yet, when it works, it usually provides a lot of relief – a sense of being ‘lighter’ or ‘carrying less of a load’. This sense of relief is a key benefit of successful counselling. Along with a sense of relief, often comes greater insight into the nature of the dilemmas which the client had been facing and, with some clients, a sense of how they want to change their lives. But for many clients the relief of losing the distress and getting ‘back to normal’ is what they are seeking.
In my experience, the time that it takes for the counselling process to work varies widely: from just a few sessions through to many months.
Normally I meet counselling clients on a weekly basis at the same time each week for a 50 minute session. If this is not possible for a client, then we work around their schedule.