WHAT CAN YOU EXPECT FROM ME AS A COUNSELLOR?
Every new client is welcome in their own special way. Whatever you bring to your counsellor, you can expect to be listened to, and to receive a level of care that does justice to the issues you want to make progress with. However, different counsellors use different methods, and too often they are kept secret from the client, in my view for no good reason, as honesty is an important first principle.So, in a spirit of honesty, here is what you can expect from me in my practice. I will try to outline, in a short piece, what my approach is to counselling, how it works, and what you might expect to happen. I will also try to outline how flexible I can be, and what that flexibility might look like. This should enable you to decide if I am the right counsellor for you, but also to feel more prepared for our meetings, and more able to share your preferences with me, as and when you want to ask for changes in how we work together.
WHAT IS MY MAIN APPROACH, AND HOW DOES IT WORK?
I am primarily a ‘Person-Centered Counsellor’. There are different ways of understanding what this means, but I can tell you what it means for me. It means I have a particular view of what we are as human beings, and how we might choose to grow and develop.
Person-centred counselling has much of its root in the work of Carl Rogers, and you are welcome to read around some of his ideas if you choose. Essentially, Rogers had an optimistic view of humanity and human nature, in that he believed we have an inner drive to grow and develop ourselves, if we are only given the right conditions in which to do it. Three essential ingredients for this to happen, he believed, are:
Unconditional positive regard – you will (I hope) find me welcoming and accepting of your whole self, even the bits which you might not like! This is so that you can experiment with your growth in an atmosphere of love and kindness, rather than be worried about any criticism on my part.
Empathy – I will work hard to understand how the world looks from your point of view. I cannot be you, but I can make every effort to understand what it is like to be in your skin, and help to look at the world with you; a companion in life, if you like. The idea is that, if you experience me understanding your world, then we can explore it together with more confidence, accuracy and enthusiasm.
Congruence – I will at all times try to be open and transparent in my dealings with you. This extends to being truthful about my personal reactions to what you are saying, though I will always try to express those reactions kindly, and in a way that aims to be helpful. The intention is that, if you see me being open and honest, it helps to create an environment in which you feel you can do the same.
In short, I will try to provide love (unconditional positive regard), understanding (empathy), and honesty (congruence).
The idea behind the method is that, under these conditions, you are best placed to explore what you want to, using me as a helpful companion on your journey.
And it’s more than that – it’s a way of life, which I try not to fake. I think that if I was false, you’d feel it in a moment, and so I try to live by these values. If you catch me not doing so, please feel free to pick me up on it!
WHAT OTHER APPROACHES AM I TRAINED IN, AND HOW DO THEY WORK?
I am also trained as a ‘Psychodynamic Counsellor’. Broadly speaking, this kind of counselling focuses a lot more on the history of the client, and how it might be affecting their life in the present, albeit unconsciously. Most psychodynamic counsellors believe that clients are affected unconsciously by many different forces, and therefore that counselling has to take into account the great impact of the past.
To an extent, I share the view that our pasts affect who we are. But I like to make sure this more historical view, seeing us as trapped by our pasts, does not lead us to be pessimistic. I am sure that you would rather find a way of living well, and moving forward with your life, rather than just dwelling on the past and how influenced you are by it.
So I will bring in elements of psychodynamic work, and take an interest in your childhood and early family life. But I will do this with a light touch, and take an optimistic approach: I believe that we can free ourselves from the past if we want to.
Finally, my training has also covered Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). This type of counselling tends to be very forward-looking, focused on planning for your future improvement, and testing your perceptions of life, to prove to you that, if you think differently, your life can run differently, and you will feel different.
Often, CBT counsellors use feedback forms to chart progress, so that you can test positive thinking techniques out on yourself, and help yourself to be less fearful and more confident.
I am happy to include this kind of systematic, planned thinking in our work, but you will find that I tend to do it with a light touch. For example, I might suggest trying a different way of handling something during the week, with us discussing how it went the following week.
In short, I am trained in three main styles of counselling:
Person-centred (offering you a supportive environment to develop yourself in the present)
Psychodynamic (working with you in the light of your past, and how it may be restricting you)
CBT (identifying, with you, practical ways to change your thought patterns in the future)
By preference, I tend to focus on a person-centred approach, bringing in elements of 2 and 3 as appropriate.I am happy to discuss any of this when we meet. I would be the first to admit that I have over-simplified some of the approaches, but my aim is to express what I do in plain language, to help us communicate about it. Equally, if, during our work together, you want to discuss flexing our approach, then that’s fine.
To give you a couple of examples as to flexibility:
If you have a particular interest in exploring your past, and its effect on your present self, then we can take a more psychodynamic approach.
If you feel you would respond well to testing out new behaviours using planned experiments and activities, then we can take a more CBT approach.
You do not have to do anything in the light of all this – just come, and let the counselling happen. It is my belief that counselling is above all a helping relationship between two people, however they decide between them to frame it. We can let it evolve naturally and in a way that suits both of us. But I hope and trust this outline is useful in giving you an idea of my counselling style, and the options available to us.