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Counselling provides a regular time and space for people to talk about their troubles and explore difficult feelings in an environment that is dependable, free from intrusion and confidential. A counsellor should respect your viewpoint while helping you to deal with specific problems, cope with crises, improve your relationships, or develop better ways of living.
Despite the name, counsellors don’t usually offer advice. Instead, they help you to gain insight into your feelings and behaviour and to change your behaviour, if necessary. They do this by listening to what you have to say and commenting on it from their particular professional perspective.
The word ‘counselling’ covers a broad spectrum, from someone who is highly trained to someone who uses counselling skills (listening, reflecting back what you say, or clarifying) as part of another role, such as nursing. We use the term here to mean a talking therapy delivered by a trained professional.
Sessions usually take place once a week. Making this regular commitment gives you a better chance of finding out why you are having difficulties.
You may come to counselling because of difficult experiences you’ve been going through, such as a relationship breakdown, bereavement or redundancy. Or you may want help dealing with feelings of sadness, depression, anxiety or low self-worth that don’t seem to be connected to any particular event.
Counselling can also help you overcome mental health problems, such as depression or an eating disorder, even if you are already getting other kinds of help from a GP or psychiatrist. It can also help you come to terms with an ongoing physical problem, illness or disability. Counselling can also be a means of coping with physical symptoms or complaints that doctors can’t alleviate. If your GP can’t find a physical cause for your problems, you may want to look further to see whether there is a psychological side to your symptoms.
There are several types of counselling that follow similar lines to the different types of psychotherapy. Each model has its own theory of human development and its own way of working. Some practitioners work in an ‘eclectic’ way, which means that they draw on elements of several different models when working with clients. Others practise a form of ‘integrative’ counselling, which draws on and blends two or more specific types.
From the client’s point of view, perhaps the most obvious difference between the types of counselling is whether the counsellor is directive (suggesting courses of action and perhaps giving ‘homework’ exercises) or non-directive (with the client taking the lead in what’s discussed).
More information about the different types of counselling can be found on the MIND website - click here.