Some signposts as to what and why and where you might go for help
I think everyone could benefit from counselling. Everyone struggles with something, and if you think you don’t, you are probably in denial and counselling could help with that.
There is a lot of stigma and confusion around mental health and the services available. I am making a distinction and giving signposts for those wanting to take control of their own healing in the area of mental health.
A Distinction Between the Medical and Social Model
There are two models of therapy, the medical and the social model. It is easy to get them confused.
1. The Medical Model.
Psychology began as a medical model. Freud and Jung and others set up systems to analyse a patient and find a way of curing them. Psychiatrists built on that, and soon pharmaceuticals were developed as part of the treatment.
The medical model says there is something wrong with you, and the experts can attempt to find a cure. This is mainly the realm of psychiatrists, clinical psychologists and psychoanalysts.
2. The Social Model
Counselling belongs to the Social Model. This approach came to the fore in the ’50s with Carl Rogers, Fritz Pearls and others. At root, it focuses on the individual client and works with whatever they bring to the relationship. A counsellor will not give you advice or try to cure you. You know yourself better than anyone else. The counsellor helps you uncover what you already know about yourself.
The social model focus on relationships. You first develop a relationship with your primary caregiver. If things are missing from that relationship, you tend to carry that with you into your subsequent relationships.
In counselling, you develop a relationship with your counsellor. They help you uncover things that are missing in your relationships. You build these into your relationship with your counsellor and then take that back into the world of all your other relationships.
What About The Stuff in Between?
This is where a lot of confusion lies. If you have a clearly diagnosable issue like OCD, ADD, ADHD, or many other conditions, then the medical model says
Or “Do this special therapy.”
Mostly the suggestion is that this will never cure you, but you can manage your condition.
The social model of counselling suggests that you may be able to address the underlying issues in your thinking and feeling world and manage your condition without drugs. It could also be that you still need the drugs to stabilise you to a point where you can address the underlying issues therapeutically.
The medical model addresses the symptoms, and the social model addresses the cause.
To confuse it all further, some counselling is still based on the medical model. For example, if you are offered a short CBT course that is based on the medical model. There is something wrong with your thinking, and you are given exercises to change your thinking patterns.
Avoid The One Size Fits All Solution.
If you want to find a counsellor who will work with you as a unique individual, then avoid anyone making bold claims. Accept that it is impossible to turn your life around in 3 easy steps, and you will not achieve untold riches by following someone else’s pathway.
Remember that the reason for creating 6-week courses is for funders to cut costs. Some people can indeed get some benefit from 6 weeks of counselling, but if the research stops there, you have no idea if further sessions could increase the benefits or have a more lasting effect.
Inquire as to whether the counselling is user-centred or a prescribed method. Our mental health is a unique condition. A counsellor should be working with you as an individual, not just trotting out a programme that worked for others.
I have had over 100 hours of counselling over a period of 35 years. I cleared some issues in my life in 10 sessions. I went for 10 years getting on great, and then something tripped me up. I went back to counselling and dug around in a completely different part of my psyche. It is ongoing. I am not dependent on it, but I am always open to returning for more help.
What Is The Point?
You are born. Shit happens. You learn how to survive the shit.
From that point on, most of us work on automatic pilot. All of our reactions already built-in. A lot of those patterns of behaviour are generational. In some cases, that works fine, but most people find they need to make changes as they grow into the adult world.
With traumatic childhood events, there is a level of disconnection that means you have suppressed parts of yourself for so long you are no longer aware consciously of their existence.
Breaking Generational Chains
If you are born into a family that suppresses all of their emotions, you tend to feel most comfortable around people who suppress their emotions. If your childhood home is a chaotic environment, don’t be surprised that you feel drawn to chaotic environments.
You try to escape situations that you have trained yourself to survive and are constantly drawn back to them like a duck to water.
Counselling can help you break generational chains.
By bringing this link to awareness, you can begin to make changes consciously. Everyone will experience this generational link in their own unique way, and only you can make the connections required to break the chains and experience freedom.
As a bereavement counsellor, one of the most common things I see is that grief can trigger suppressed emotions from childhood. Some clients become overwhelmed by grief and, in therapy, make links to childhood trauma.
An often-repeated theme is holding guilt and self-blame around a traumatic incident that mirrors the feelings around the death of a loved one.
The abused child feels partly to blame. The bereaved partner feels they did not do enough.
Seeing the links in how you deal with trauma now and the echoes in the past can help us accept our emotions and allow them to be expressed.
You Don’t Need A Diagnosis
Diagnosis is part of the medical model. You don’t need a diagnosis to get value from counselling. A diagnosis is a tool the medical profession uses to decide on appropriate therapy or medical intervention.
A Diagnosis labels you with an illness. Counsellors do not need to label you to treat you because they don’t work with you as a problem to be solved. They work with you as a unique individual who has access to all the information needed to bring about healing.
Becoming Self Aware
A counsellor will not help you put your issues into boxes; neatly label them and store them away. You are more likely to open all your boxes one by one and scatter them all over the floor. In this way, you can move forward in your life with awareness, whereas previously, you were stumbling blindly forward, hoping for the best.
Searching For a Counsellor
I considered putting a few useful links here, but, considering this platform’s international nature, I would point you to specific search terms that would help you find services in your local area.
Person-centred Counsellor — Integrative Counsellor — Humanistic Counsellor
As a UK counsellor, I use two L’s, other countries may use one.