What is Counselling and is it for me?

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Counselling is a process where you can confidentially explore personal issues with the help of a professional. The counsellor will assist you to clarify issues that you face, explore options, develop strategies and help you to increase your own self-awareness.

People can seek counselling for any issue they face. Typical issues that bring people to counselling include relationship difficulties, mental heath concerns like depression and anxiety, alcohol or drug problems, excessive anger, domestic violence, abuse, or just feeling stressed or unable to cope.

When receiving counselling from a Psychologist the process of counselling generally includes an initial introduction session where a Psychologist will discuss your situation and any attempts you have made to resolve your issues. The Psychologist will then work with you to form a treatment plan that will move you towards recovery from issues that have been of concern. If your issues are around common concerns, your Psychologist is also likely to provide a high level of educational content during therapy.

There are many different types of counsellors and they use varied techniques. It is very important to note that in Australia there are currently no laws preventing anyone from calling themselves as “Counsellor”, even if they are not qualified or experienced in providing counselling. It is therefore wise to make sure that a person you are seeking counselling from is associated with a professional body that requires them to have adequate training and experience. All Psychologists, for example, must complete at least a 4-year university degree, and then an additional 2-years of supervised practice or further university study before they are officially qualified to provide counselling. They are also required to maintain their registration as a Psychologist with a licencing board in order to continue to practice.

 

QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF

There are a number of questions that you should ask yourself before you decide to embark on counselling. The first thing to clarify is whether you are ready to talk about issues of concern with a professional. You might feel worried that you might be negatively judged, and feel understandably embarrassed about the idea of talking to someone who you don’t know. You might need a little more time to work up the courage to take that first step! Rest assured though, Psychologists are experts at putting people at ease when they are disclosing the issues that brought them to counselling. Throughout the therapeutic process, they will display extreme care and empathy towards you, and remain non-judgmental.

Another question you should ask yourself is what do you anticipate to gain from counselling? Often people are concerned that no one will be able to help them with their problems, as they may feel too complex, or too long-standing. Sometimes people are plagued by mental health issues or symptoms that they don’t really understand, and mistakenly believe there is no hope for recovery. This can be very common when people start to experience depression or anxiety, for example, and they may notice some symptoms like extreme tiredness or feeling frequently scared, irritable or unhappy but are not able to link these feelings to an overarching cause. A Psychologist is highly experienced in helping to identify and treat the causes of your concerns. Most often a Psychologist is able to assist even if you have no idea how this can possibly occur!

If you’ve decided that you are ready for counselling and that you will benefit from it, you will need to have a think about what type of counselling you are after. Do you want short-term therapy to address specific concerns, or do you think you might need long-term psychotherapy to help you resolve childhood issues and help you cope with the ongoing stresses of life? Do you suspect you have a mental health concern like depression, panic or anxiety which would benefit from treatment by a Psychologist who is specifically trained in the treatment of these issues? Are you bothered by whether you see a male or female counsellor? Do you have a particular counselling approach in mind? Psychologists use various scientifically proven therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) which helps you to examine and challenge your own thoughts and behaviours, or Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT) which is a form of therapy that helps you to accept your thoughts and be true to your values, but they also have a wide array of alternative therapies and techniques that they can also use. Having said that, you don’t necessarily need to confuse yourself trying to work out all this stuff out before undertaking counselling! If you are not exactly sure what you are after, a good plan might be to book in with someone who seems like they will be able to help based on what you know about them. Let them handle the details of how they actually help! That is after all what they are trained to do!

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