Counselling – You’re really not mad to seek help.

I often wonder how the stigma once attached to seeking counselling has lessoned over the last decade.  It maybe traditionally un-British to talk about ones feelings and the general belief has always been that there must be something wrong with a person if they needed counselling.   Read on further …..

The term alone that a person ‘needs’ counselling is key as it indicates they are unable to function without support or that there’s something seriously wrong.  The truth is more that that people can benefit from counselling; that they can free themselves from loving within their defences and fears and allow them to live as they would like to; that they can become more self aware to know what is best for them. 

Times and attitudes have changed and more and more talking therapy is accepted and encouraged by many.  With the government initiative in flow – Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT), it aims to promote mental well-being and seeks to change the old perceptions. 

As a practising therapist I fully support this as the promotion of mental well-being can have a profound effect on individuals.  Further more the knock on effects onto others can be significant too.  For each person who gains benefit, they may then live in a happier, more functional manner which then has an effect on people they come into contact with, especially close relations and children.  Often dysfunctional behaviour is learnt or adopted from others we see around us as we grow up and these behaviours can be passed from generation to generation. 

As a practising counsellor in Birmingham, I find it’s a rarity for clients to gain no benefit from counselling.  From the tiniest amount of added self awareness to complete changes in life, counselling can bring about so much.  The client is always central and different therapists will work in different ways with no one particular therapeutic style being proven to be any more effective that any other. 

Studies show that only 15% of the positive outcome is attributed to the therapeutic style and the way the therapist works.  30% is attributed to the relationship between the client and therapist, indicating the importance of choosing the right therapist for you.  It can be a very good idea to shop around and to talk to a number of therapists if you have the opportunity to and choose the person you feel most suited to you.  40% of the outcome is based on the client in terms of their support network, their ability to move forward and their resources.  The remaining 15% is attributed to the expectancy of the outcome.  This is a kind of placebo effect, the belief that by seeing a therapist things will get better. 

As a therapist, I work in an integrative therapist which means I integrate the main schools of psychology in a structured manner to suit the client.  I believe this approach to be effective as it allows each client to be treated as the individual they are and the use of the most appropriate tools to allow them to gain what they wish from the sessions.  Each client is unique and will have their own requirements.  Some people would like to resolve issues they feel may be rooted in the past.  Others may will seek to assess where they are in the here and now and look to find out what needs to happen for them to begin to move forward.  Others may seek to overcome unwanted feelings or unwanted thought patterns.  

I find by working with the client by creating the best possible environment for effective therapy, by listening, by accepting the individual for who they are, by having an unconditional positive regard, this all creates the beginnings of a good working relationship.  I have a great deal of admiration for anybody who seeks help in this way as it takes courage and strength to do so.

With regard to the government initiative to improve access to therapies, there is still wrangling over what should be offered and how this should be delivered with the debate doubtlessly continuing as services evolve and improve.  Initially, it was felt that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy was the golden answer.  This was influenced by it being classed as evidence based and shorter term than other therapies which pleases the NHS ways of working as well as the purse-string holders.  The debate has developed and the proposed offerings have been rightfully broadened but there’s still a distance to go.  Beyond all that and most fundamentally, the promotion of mental wellbeing and psychological therapies is a positive movement forward to improving society’s functioning as a whole.

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