So you’ve heard that counselling can be helpful if you are dealing with problems in your life.
It could be difficulties at work; health issues; problems with your partner or other relationships; upsetting memories from your past, or worries about your future; or a combination of these or other factors.
Yet there is some sort of mental barrier preventing many people from actually seeking out professional help, instead preferring to remain trapped in their problems.
When I am in a social situation and people discover that I am a psychologist, I am often peppered with questions about counselling, and the work that I do. Some people have some very strange ideas about psychologists (“tell me about your mother”)!
So I thought it might be helpful to answer some of the most frequently asked questions, such as: How can counselling help me? Isn’t it just as good if I talk things over with my best friends? What sort of people benefit from counselling? And what can I expect in my first session?
It is my hope that this article will help you feel more at ease about seeking the help of a psychologist.
Isn’t Talking to a Friend Just as Good as Counselling?
Talking to a friend is not the same as talking to a psychologist, because the counselling process is not only a way to actively and purposefully decrease your emotional distress, but also to enable choice and change.
Psychologists have specific training to help put clients at ease, so they can talk freely about their feelings and problems – something that can be difficult to do with friends and family, either because they may be personally involved, or find it difficult to remain objective.
Think of a counselling session as a safe space to air your difficulties, without fear of censure or judgement.
As a result of being able to freely air your feelings and problems with a psychologist, you are likely to gain a sense of relief and a lightening of your burden. This in turn allows you a chance to gain some perspective to reflect on your situation, accept any problems that cannot be changed, find a way to solve those that can, and find new understanding.
In addition, the role of a psychologist is to help you to identify areas which are proving troublesome; examine how your thinking or behaviour may have contributed to your difficulties; and find practical ways that you can start to make changes.
Who Benefits from Counselling?
You may benefit from counselling if you:
- find life is unfulfilling, or not as fulfilling as it once was;
- do not enjoy your work anymore;
- always feel anxious, angry or depressed;
- are having marriage difficulties, or family problems;
- have lost someone or something you care deeply about;
- are dealing with chronic health conditions;
- have addiction/s;
- struggle to make major decisions;
- have weight problems;
- are having difficulties adjusting to a new situation;
- suffer with a mental health condition;
- are struggling in the aftermath of a car or other type of accident; or
- just can’t find the motivation to do anything,
These are all common problems, that most of us will experience at some point in our lives.
No matter what the situation, you might feel unfulfilled, disturbed, concerned, worried, threatened and so on. Chances are, you feel like you are caught in a trap, or that you have been going round in circles. You are probably exhausted from the effort of trying to fix the seemingly unsolvable; and nothing seems to work out, as you would like it to.
Attending counselling does not just have benefits for you personally – your partner, family, friends and work colleagues will all benefit from a happier you!
What can I Expect in the First Session?
Deciding to seek help is a courageous act, because you have just made the first step to explore what is possible.
It is quite common to feel anxious and uncomfortable about attending the first session with a psychologist. The good news is that psychologists are equipped with rapport building skills, to help you feel at ease quickly. You also don’t need to worry about remembering what to say, as your psychologist will guide you with questions.
The first appointment is primarily about information gathering; at the end of this session, your psychologist may explain some of the possible precipitating and perpetuating factors of your current difficulties.
From this point, your psychologist will work with you to identify goals for your counselling treatment, and discuss possible treatment plans and options, as well as giving you an idea of the anticipated number of counselling sessions you are likely to require.
After your first session, you may find that you are already feeling more hopeful about working through your problems.
No matter what difficulties you are facing, counselling can help you to not only manage your emotional distress, but also promote self growth through making choices and changes.
Author: Claire Pang, B Psych (Hons), M Clin Psych.
As a Clinical Psychologist, Claire has training in psychological assessment and evidence-based therapies treating depression, anxiety, trauma and complex mental health conditions, and enjoys working with adults and couples. She is result-orientated, and draws on a wide range of therapeutic approaches to customise treatment to the individual’s needs and concerns.
To make an appointment try Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call Vision Psychology Brisbane on (07) 3088 5422.
- Leahy, R. 2012. Treatment Plans and Interventions for Depression and Anxiety Disorders.
- Claringbull, N. 2010. What is Counselling and Psychotherapy.
- Dryden, W, & Spurling, L. 2014. On Becoming a Psychotherapist.