Making that call or sending that email can be a very hard thing to do. In recognition of this, I thought that I would share some personal experiences of counselling and psychotherapy. I hope they will inspire you to make that call. (Names have been changed to protect confidentiality).
The best thing I ever did
I never really believed in counselling or that I would ever need the support of therapy. My friends pushed me to go to counselling and I went, even though I never believed it would help. It turned out to be the best thing I ever did. My counsellor helped me to work through everything and to move forward by myself, stronger and happier than I had ever been before. For me counselling was a journey of self discovery. To those like me who don’t believe, trust me, when you find the right counsellor with whom you can connect it will be the best decision you ever make. Jack, 37
What to look for
I’ve been to a few counsellors and like anything in life I rated some more than others. My tip would be to find someone you feel really comfortable with, but at the same time someone who will challenge you. Also, remember you’re supposed to be working things through, so there’s no point hiding anything because you’re embarrassed or ashamed. Take all your dirty baggage along and let it all hang out! Mark, 28
What's it like?
I always wondered what psychotherapy would be like. The best thing about it is that you can say anything, and talk about whatever you want, and you never feel judged in the slightest – only supported. It’s like there’s someone there who’s rooting for you and won’t give up on you. It’s almost like a form of unconditional love. Trisha, 44
Don’t put it off
I wish I hadn’t wasted so much time before I emailed my counsellor and got going. I spent ages looking at faces and visiting websites, but kept putting off getting in touch. Now I’d say, if you keep thinking about seeing a therapist, you probably should go – so start now! Mary, 48
It's for people like you and me
I never thought I would go to see a counsellor or therapist. I used to think it was for people who were either totally incompetent or else very ill. Now I know it’s also for people like me – normal people going through the normal ups and downs of life – and I recommend it for everyone! Aaron, 33
It helped us both
We went for couples counselling after we spent a whole weekend arguing. One of our children started crying when we were still at it on Sunday night, and we stopped, looked at each other in horror and agreed we’d give counselling a go. We talked a lot and listened to each other talking a lot. Our counsellor helped us both try to understand each other better. Once you really understand why someone behaves the way they do, it becomes possible to forgive or overlook their shortcomings. It’s like we’ve learned how to talk to each other all over again. We still argue sometimes, but we also know when and how to stop. Tony and Niamh
Like a gift
Going to therapy was the best gift I have ever given myself. Siobhan, 31
Mindfulness seems to be a word that is heard more and more, but what are the benefits? Some people regard it as a fad while others feel the positive effects of it. The wide range of views may have something to do with the wide range of mindfulness courses, in terms of the structure and length of time of the course. It is also relevant to consider the mindfulness teacher – do they embody mindfulness or are they teaching by rote? One of the reasons that we hear about mindfulness more often is that there is much more research into the area compared to a decade ago. We are now starting to see the evidence that identifies particular benefits for those that engage in mindfulness practice. Much of the research looks at individuals who have undergone a mindfulness course that is either based on or closely follows the 8-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course that was developed 35 years ago by Jon Kabat-Zinn. The MBSR course involves training in various practices of mindfulness meditation, along with elements of gentle yoga which nowadays tends to be referred to as mindful movement. The course consists of eight weekly sessions of two and a half hours each, with one full day between weeks 6 and 7.
So, here are some of the things that a MBSR course can have a positive effect on:
In short, an MBSR course will allow you to become familiar with the workings of your mind, and get in touch with a different way of knowing yourself and the world. This can lead to having greater freedom to choose the life you want to live.
I chose the name “Connecting Mindfully” for my counselling service. It took me quite a while to settle on this name, but it really works for me. I think this is because it captures two things that are important to me, particularly when it comes to working with individual clients, couples or groups. Any good Counsellor or Psychotherapist will tell you that the relationship between client and counsellor is a key part of the counselling process. We can call it the Therapeutic Relationship or the Therapeutic Alliance, but essentially we are talking about building and maintaining a connection between client and counsellor. Connecting then is a process or activity that starts right from the first session and must be continually held in importance throughout the counselling process, whether it’s a few sessions or many. So that takes care of the ‘Connecting’ part of the name, but what about the ‘Mindfully’ part?
Over the last number of years, I have become increasingly interested in mindfulness. Throughout various trainings and experiences, I have come to see that mindfulness holds much in the way of helping to bring about many benefits in the areas of health and wellbeing. Being mindful is something that I practice bringing to all aspects of my own life, and this includes how I practice as a Counsellor / Psychotherapist. Of course, mindfulness is just one aspect of my practice and I am always mindful that each client is unique with their own needs, and this informs what therapy approach or mix of approaches that we might work with. That said, one of the things about being mindful is that it can bring awareness, which is really useful for connecting with people.
Hopefully that gives a brief idea of where I’m coming from with Connecting Mindfully.
I am sometimes asked about the terms used in my profession. People say "what is the difference between 'counselling' and 'psychotherapy'?" Well, there are differing views on this. Some would say that actually there is no difference, while others argue that one is not the same as the other. The Irish Association of Counselling & Psychotherapy (IACP), which is the governing body that I belong to, recently presented a position paper. In it they state that there is no difference between the two terms. Generally, the words counselling and psychotherapy are used interchangingly. Some suggest that the number of sessions determine whether it is counselling or psychotherapy. I think that what is important is that a client who has chosen to come for sessions, is met with a professionally trained Counsellor / Psychotherapist who has the skills and experience to provide whatever is appropriate to the needs of the client at any time. In my view, a key consideration is the connection between both parties, and this trumps whether I am called a counsellor or psychotherapist.
(for the full IACP document, see http://www.iacp.ie/files/UserFiles/IACP-Position-Paper-on-Regulation-and-the-Difference-between-Counselling-and-Psychotherapy-April-2015.pdf )
Graham Matthews MIACP
I'm a professionally qualified Counsellor and Mindfulness Teacher working privately in South Dublin. I am fully accredited with IACP. From time to time, I blog about counselling related topics, mindfulness and other things that interest me.