What is counselling?


What is counselling?

It is usually a major life event that prompts a person to think about counselling. We’ve all heard about it. The word gets passed about freely in the media, on television shows and in the media. We hear about it in schools and even at our local doctor’s surgery. It is easy to form an idea about what counselling is. But do we really know?

The term counselling stems from the word counsel which means to give advice. However, in a therapeutic context it is very different to the way a lawyer provides counsel or a business manager might.

Counselling in the therapeutic context

In the therapeutic context counselling is based on a relationship between the client and the counsellor that is unique. The relationship exists for the client and is centred entirely around the client and their needs. It is an unconditional relationship where there is no judgement, criticism or conditional attachments. A safe place to release thoughts, feelings, problems and processes, both emotional and cognitive.

This is a relationship of absolute trust and the boundaries are clear. Your counsellor will never engage with you socially or become part of your life outside of counselling. Expectations are different and the client while sharing their emotional life with the counsellor, is not expected to reciprocate.  The relationship begins when you start counselling and ends once the engagement is over. The confidence shared is kept confidential long after your relationship has ended.

What happens during counselling?

This is important for the wellbeing of the client. During the counselling sessions the clients talks about thoughts, feelings and experiences. The counsellor will listen carefully and pay attention to what the important issues are to the client. Often thoughts and feelings surrounding certain experiences can be overwhelming. By talking about their thoughts and feelings and getting some help to contextualise them the client can begin to feel better. The talking about the emotional experience often brings about a better understanding of them and helps in the healing process.

Client centred therapy

Counselling is arranged around the needs of the client. Initially it is likely to take place weekly and usually on the same day of the week at the same time. Sessions usually last for between 50 and 60 minutes. In same cases longer sessions may be arranged. Once the sessions have started the therapist will review progress and discuss with the patient the need to increase or decrease the sessions.


A properly trained therapist usually will have a supervisor. This isn’t someone that is in charge of them, but rather another equally trained or higher trained professional therapist. Good practice means that a therapist has a supervisor available to support them maintain an ethical practice. Supervision ensures the wellbeing of both the client and the therapist. The therapist can take the issues raised in the sessions to someone that can also help them to maintain a balance of opinion and thoughts on those issues. The clients are not identified during sessions with a supervisor for obvious reasons.

What counselling can do for you?

While counselling has become a mainstream treatment and is no longer stigmatised socially, some people will still avoid seeking out a good counsellor. This avoidance is often because of preconceived ideas about what counselling is and who it is for.

Counselling helps with a variety of problems that we encounter in our daily lives and different people may benefit from counselling for very different reasons. It is sometimes assumed that the only people that benefit from counselling are the mentally ill. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Counselling for different life events

Counselling provides an excellent coping infrastructure for those experiencing bereavement, physical illness, relationship difficulties, trauma, addictions and even bullying. In fact, counselling can help those having to cope with these issues from becoming mentally ill. Even mental illness is seriously misunderstood, and a trained counsellor will be able to identify when it manifests in a patient. So, counselling will not only help to alleviate symptoms of mental illness, it also can help as a preventative measure so that mental illness does not become established.

Different approaches

There are so many different approaches to counselling that there is certainly an approach or method that is right for the circumstances or difficulties that anyone finds themselves in. it may sound a little cliched bit there is a therapist and a therapy to support anyone who has experienced or is experiencing just about anything.

Identify the desired outcome

To identify what counselling can do for you, it may help to ask what the outcome is that you will be seeking. For some people it will be the emotional recovery from a difficult life event. For others it will be a couple recovering from a relationship breakdown. For someone else it may be an understanding of how to develop the skills required to manage a lifelong mental health condition.

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