Come when you feel off-colour or out of balance, not yourself or overwhelmed.
Counselling is not just a science. It is part of a social process. The dominance of a scientific, data-driven approach to everything from education through medicine to mental health, could lead you to believe that you need to know everything about your condition before even approaching a Counsellor. You can feel you need to know what is broken before anyone can mend you.
You are not a bicycle.
You are the only person who knows what it feels like to be on your journey. No one can give you a test drive and diagnose a flat tyre or a loose chain. You are the only person that can experience what it is like to be you.
Our medical and mental health services can appear to be crisis-driven.
“I don’t want to bother overstretched services. I am not as bad as others.”
You know that if you ride a bicycle with a flat tyre, you will end up with a buckled wheel, yet you carry on feeling a little bit depressed or anxious until it starts to impact your day-to-day functioning. You may feel out of sorts, a bit unbalanced. You react to situations surprisingly and feel like you are losing control.
You don’t need an expert.
Many therapists have specialisms, and the effect is to give the message that you, as a client, need to know what is wrong with you before you approach anyone to get it fixed. So we carry on coping and designing strategies and survival mechanisms until none works. You have reached a crisis.
You then go to a doctor or Emergency services and, in desperation, hand over the management of your being to an expert.
Here’s a secret. Doctors have no idea how you feel and no time to find out. They have a pack of cards in their head, and if your symptoms match what’s written on one of those cards, they turn it over and Voila! There is a solution. Medication or therapy is prescribed, and they move on to the next patient.
You are an expert on you.
With the help of a counsellor, you can begin to see beyond any diagnosis. You are giving yourself the time and the space to get to know who you are and what drives you.
A Psychiatrist can diagnose you with DXYZ but all that does is put you into a category with another million people. Each one of those million represents the diagnosis differently so you have to ask what point is there in the diagnosis?
You could argue a diagnosis helps you look in the right direction but maybe with that specific focus you are missing out on all the things going on elsewhere.
There are multiple examples in the history of mental health treatment where a longstanding diagnosis is seen to be incorrect and the treatment dished up for it has been useless or even damaging. I’ll leave you to Google those examples for yourself.
One example is conversion therapy for the LGBT community. In the UK despite all the evidence of the extensive damage it has caused it has only been banned for LGB and not for Trans people. The government is saying it is ok for a therapist to work with Trans clients and be paid to convince them that what they feel deeply about themselves is wrong. This discussion deserves an article of it’s own.
A counsellor should guide you to look at every aspect of your being
It is not a counsellor’s job to tell you what is wrong with you. There is nothing wrong with you. Life has thrown a whole load of circumstances at you and with extraordinary resilience you have survived.
If you are more anxious than normal, shedding tears in situations that have surprised you, lost your sense of purpose, feel you are stuck in a hamster wheel, these are all signs a crisis could be on its way.
Don’t wait till you can’t get out of bed, your relationship breaks down, or you fly off the handle at the slightest misstep by another. You are then in crisis and you will need crisis management.
Counsellors can deal with crisis management but it can take several weeks of therapy just to get you to a point where you are receptive to exploring your inner world.
It is far more cost effective to come before the crisis hits. You can explore the uncomfortable feelings and make changes in your life at a time when you are still able to think clearly.
When you are in crisis you have switched into permanent fight or flight mode. All your resources are directed towards surviving the pain you are in. Your rational mind has been taken offline and your emotions are overwhelming.
You don’t have to know what is wrong with you
Counsellors are trained to work with whatever you bring. You don’t need to Google your symptoms and diagnose yourself, that is unlikely to be helpful. You don’t have to know what you need. You only need to be able to talk about everything that is bothering you and allow your counsellor to listen and reflect with you.
You may never discover what is causing your pain.
A commonly expressed desire at the beginning of counselling is to find out why you are going through this agony. Often on the completion of therapy clients reflect that they are still none the wiser.
One client expressed it well after 20 sessions.
“I still don’t know why I was struggling so much when I came, but I do know that I am not struggling anymore. All the things that were annoying or worrying me just don’t seem to matter anymore.”
We are in a society that likes to rationalise. Everything has to be measured and assessed, and every action is directed towards a clear goal. Productivity is raised above creativity, success is prized, and physical and mental wellbeing is neglected.
I invite you to notice when your well-being is slightly off-kilter. Don’t wait for things to spin out of control. Connect up with a counsellor you feel you can relate to and take back the reigns. You already know everything you need to know. You don’t need answers, simply being aware of your thoughts and feelings can be enough to begin directing them towards a purpose you create for yourself.
Thank you for reading to the end. Please subscribe if you would like to read more.
John Walter BEd Dip.Couns. MBACP
I work Europe-wide over a video link and face-to-face in Cornwall. www.johnwaltercounsellor.com
These directories are a good starting point for Uk residents.