Common thoughts

January 7, 2020
by Gabriel De Guzman 1 minute read

Frequently asked questions & thoughts about one on ones

Below you'll find some thoughts and answers to questions that have been asked by many people who have looked for support. I hope they can provide you with new insights and perspectives into what counselling could mean for you.

What is counselling?

As a counsellor I find it tricky to answer this because counselling is different for every therapist and every person seeing a therapist. While people go through similar things in life, every individual is so unique that people's experiences and therefore journey of recovery is also unique.

While you can google and find a definition of ‘counselling’, instead I’ll do my best to give you a description that offers a perspective of what counselling is and what you can expect.

In a sentence, counselling is a conversation and a space.

It's a conversation where the person seeing the therapist comes with whatever might be on their mind, and the therapist offers their training and experience to support you in what you're going through. As you do that you'll find new perspectives to look at the problems or issues you're facing, new perspectives on your strengths and character, and in that process, creating your journey towards change.

It's a space that you create with your therapist. How you create it and what you make of this space is up to you. I find that many clients underestimate this because we rarely get a chance to do something like this in our lives.

Most times when we need or are seeking support, we don’t know what to expect or what is possible with therapy - at least not yet. But at any point in therapy, when you realise or have a thought that is most important to you at that time, voice it out - let your therapist know and you can focus on that for the session and/or the ones that follow.

This is also true for things that aren’t working during your conversation. Letting your therapist know what isn’t working or what you might not like about your conversation helps with the process of creating your space.

No matter what a therapist's approach may be, there are is one thing that your therapist will (and should) ensure about this space:

Safety This means that it’s a safe space for you to:

  • Express your thoughts and feelings without being judged and without having what you say being shared with others without your permission*.
  • Be relaxed and comfortable. It’s not a space where you are pressured into talking about things. With that said, you might get challenged to share or think about something in a different way and this might bring some discomfort. Therapists are trained to facilitate this space so you experience support and respect throughout the conversation. Even, and especially during the more difficult things to talk about.
  • Be listened to and respected. It’s a space where your voice is heard and listened to by the therapist. If that’s not your experience, the best way is to let your therapist know. That way, you can work together in creating a safe space where you can experience all of the above and get what you really want from counselling.

*This is confidentiality. It means that what is shared during a session is kept between the people during the session. The only time this is broken is when what is shared tells the therapist that you may be harmed or someone you know may be harmed in some way. It is our duty as therapists to do no harm and getting more support for you so that you remain safe is part of that duty.

Who is a counsellor?

A counsellor is someone trained to offer a talk-based therapy. There are many types of talk-therapy and for many people, the action of telling their story to a counsellor and being listened to is very helpful by itself. The rest of the conversations they have with counsellors offer even more support.

In New Zealand, there is no law that requires someone to have qualifications or experience to become a counsellor, so not all counsellors are professionally qualified.

However there are trained and qualified counsellors. A trained counsellor spends several or more years studying university at the post graduate level in NZ. This is because most professional bodies for counselling in NZ (For example the New Zealand Association of Counsellors, NZAC) have a required level of study in order for counsellors to become a member. As a result of this, counsellors who are part of professional bodies adhere to a code of ethics and a national standard that ensure they offer a service that is held accountable and is always improving.

If this is important to you, I do encourage you to ask the counsellor about their training, background and experience, and if they belong to a professional body of counselling.

What happens if you don't like the counsellor?

The short answer is - don't go back. That's okay too.

However even before the first session, I do encourage people to try talking to a counsellor over the phone at least once. If you feel you want to double check and call again, that's okay too. After that, go and try meeting with them once. The phone call(s) will give you a good idea of who they are and how they work. If you’re still unsure, the first meeting will really help you decide if working with them is what you’re looking for.

Still, sometimes people just don't work well together. It doesn’t mean that anything is wrong with you or the counsellor at all - that’s just the way things are sometimes.

If you're comfortable to, tell the counsellor. You can then work out what you like, what works and what doesn't work - the counsellor will support you in that and will figure out with you what the best way of working together will be.

Better yet, in figuring out what did and didn’t work, you’ll come out of the conversation knowing what to look for when you search for the right therapist for you.

But I don't really have a choice in counsellors because some are expensive or I've been referred to someone specifically.

I said before that therapy is your space - it might be about making sure the space is a place you can talk about things. Generally when things don't work with a counsellor is because you may not be experiencing some aspect of safety during your conversation. Taking a trusted person with you and expressing what may be missing to the therapist can start a conversation in the right direction to make sure it is safe.

If it doesn’t work - you can try to be referred on. More often than not, unfortunately, this might mean waiting until a different counsellor is available.

Another option is looking for funding options there are plenty of options available out there.

Counselling is scary

It can be really scary as well as all the other emotions similar to that. It's similar with meeting a new person and therapists understand that. Which means, they'll be welcoming and take things at your pace.

If it's hard to go and see a therapist straight away, give them a call first. Have someone with you when you make that call. If it’s still scary, give them another call - therapists understand that, like meeting new people or being in a new place, these things can be an experience of worry.

If you think you’re ready to meet face to face, that’s great and if you’d feel more confident having someone with you - bring a trusted person along. Remember, counselling is a safe place - and bringing that trusted person along can really help with that.

Parents want me to go see a counsellor | My child doesn't want to go see a counsellor

To Kids & Teens: counsellors are not here to force people to do anything they don’t want to do. That includes children and teenagers, not just for the adults we work with. This is something we tell parents, but at the same time, counsellors hear that parents are looking out for you and want to support you in some way.

One thing that you can do is to tell your parents how you feel about seeing a counsellor.

But, parents can be persistent and keep talking to you about this. That’s okay. Another thing that you can do is to call the counsellor together with your parents - this way everyone can speak about what’s on their mind and be heard. Remember, counselling is a safe place - everyone’s voices especially your own, will have a say.

If you’re unsure about the counsellor your parents want you to see - you can always give them a call by yourself as well. Having a conversation with them and getting to know the counsellor a little will help you make a decision or get rid of some worries you may have.

To Parents: As I mentioned above, counsellors aren’t here to force people to do anything they don’t want to do because it will make the work ineffective, and sometimes even detrimental. So, sorry mum and/or dad, we’re not here to help you convince whether or not your child needs support.

Counselling is a conversation and a safe space for everyone involved - especially for the child, who will be working with the counsellor. The best thing that we can do is try some of the steps above (calling counsellor together) and encourage seeking support. The not so good thing we can do is make counselling or the idea of seeking support as a pressure, or something of that nature. It may be that your child isn’t ready to share what’s going on for them right now, but if they just know you support them and want them to seek more support if they choose to, then the choice is there for them when they’re ready.

I would encourage parents and caregivers to call and even have sessions with the counsellor themselves, who are likely to be willing to support you and your family in some way.

What is the point of counselling?
What is talking going to do for me? Honestly it doesn’t really do anything.

I’ve heard this many times and for some people, part of it is true - talking might not have an impact right now. But let me put it into a different perspective:

You’ve seen on our website that we believe in the power of words. Because words do make a difference - Just look at presidents, other leaders of countries, and influencers. Look at how their words move or make an impact on people.

What about the way your mood or your day changes if someone were to compliment your appearance or put you down by saying something mean?

Words make a lasting impact - just look at the effects of constant bullying over a period of time. It’s a sad fact that through bullying, people begin to believe what bullies tell them and end up taking their own lives.

Words, talking, and conversations we have with others and ourselves make an impact on our lives. This impact could be positive, negative, or anything in between.

Let’s make it a positive and encouraging impact. Counselling and one on ones support us in doing that in our lives.

If you're not ready to chat right now, that's okay. However if you do feel you're wanting support, you can start by talking to people around you that you trust.

My friend/someone I care about/someone I know doesn’t want to see a counsellor - what do I do?

It’s great that you’re there to support your friend or loved one. See a counsellor yourself or call one - get some support on what you can do; but more importantly, you may need some support for what you’re experiencing as the person supporting someone going through something difficult and challenging in their lives.

Offer to call the counsellor together; or see the counsellor together.

What kinds of people go to counselling?

Everyone and anyone. They could be going through a tough part in life right now, they could have some things in the past that they’ve been holding onto and are ready or have decided they want more support with that. It could also be wanting to have a new direction in life and support with that is something they’re looking for. There aren’t any type or kinds of people who go to counselling - we all walk through the ups and downs of life. At times in that journey, we'll want and need some support. That’s what counselling and one on ones are here for.

Have more questions and thoughts?

It's great you're taking the time to search and find the answers your looking for. If you had a question that wasn’t answered or clarified here, do fill in the form below so I can do what I can to provide an answer. If you’re thinking it, it’s very likely that someone else is thinking of it too. By getting in touch, you're helping us building onto this article and you're also helping others along their journey.

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