In my previous article, I wrote about some of the common misconceptions about people who struggle with mental health issues. Counsellors, too, carry out sessions buttered with social stigma too.
So, what is counselling actually? What happens inside the room? And why would somebody pay a stranger to just listen to them?
Besides listening, counsellors offer their clients a safe space to acquire the following:
1. An understanding of the origins of and development of their emotional difficulties
2. A capacity to take rational control over feelings and actions
3. An exploration to help people understand themselves and integrate conflicting parts of themselves
4. An awareness of thoughts and feelings that have been blocked out or denied
5. A new set of social and interpersonal skills to improve relationships
Counselling is primarily based on conversations between the counsellor and the client. Like all interaction between two people, factors such as mutual trust, acceptance, respect for difference, degree of comfort, etc. are essential for this therapeutic alliance to work. Unlike friendships and other kinds of relationships, the client’s relationship with the counsellor is unique as the counsellor is not part of client’s private life outside the counselling room.
I would be lying if I said that counselling is always a comfortable or enjoyable process. Deconstructing emotional pain to find its origin requires time, (a lot of) patience, and a commitment to do what is needed to achieve the agreed counselling objectives. Discovering catacombs of unconscious fears is not fun and the client can feel vulnerable and exposed.
This is why empathy is such an essential attribute of a counsellor. As the client struggles in the session, the counsellor's job is to provide that affirmation the client needs to feel secure and acknowledged. Just as a pilot is responsible for the safety of the passengers, counsellors have a duty to demonstrate unconditional regard for the well-being of their clients.