One reason why mental health services is not well understood is because it is incredibly difficult to explain them. More often than not practitioners and educators have to resort to using textbook definitions, which can be difficult to resonate with anyone who is not educated in psychology.
This piece will attempt to briefly introduce counselling.
Counselling is essentially about offering four things:
- An emphatic ear
- Comfort and affirmation
- Alternative ways of making sense about things
- Opportunity to learn new things about themselves
In life each of us will experience some degree of stuckness with different shapes and sizes. This stuckness can be be any difficulty one is experiencing: clarifying uncertainties, making sense of mood states, coping with grief and trauma, forming relationships, and adjusting to new lifestyles. The list can go on and on. Long story short, if you are feeling any sense of stuckness in your life that you would like to make sense of, you can consider counselling.
As a whole, counsellors are a mix of a variety of professions: befrienders, physicians, coaches, trainers, and consultants.
- Befriender: build trusting relationships with clients and check in with their lives.
- Physicians: conceptualize the case, check history, test working hypotheses of conditions, and draft out plans of care.
- Coach: help clients define goals and accompany them as they move towards them.
- Trainer: empower individuals through teaching them various psychological tools or skills they can use on their own.
- Consultant: provide expert opinion about the counselling process and human psychology for various parties.
Some even take on extra educational work in schools and universities, supervise therapists-in-training, participate in advocacy for the needy, and engage in research work as psychologists.
As you share your troubles with counsellors, they will attempt to empathize with you and check in with you if they got you correctly. As they do that, they also get a clearer picture of your situation from a bird’s eye view, which allow them to point out new perspectives if relevant. Counsellors also check in with your goals and discuss your strategy of reaching it. The objective is to help clients learn or be aware of new things about themselves.
Note that every counsellor has their own style, and you may be hard pressed to find two counsellors that work exactly the same way. Some counsellors are more directive and straightforward, others are more gentle and indirect. Some counsellors focus more on your solutions, others focus on checking in with your family and social relationships. Some focus on attending to and disputing your thoughts, others focus more clarifying your feelings. Many are a combination of all of these, but at the end of the day, it is down to the client to find a counsellor that is comfortable to work with and relate to.
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