Last time I wrote of fears about counselling and the profound question of whether counselling will work.
This week, I’ve been reflecting on the interest in that article. Thanks to all of you who liked it or commented on it. I suppose in one sense it got to the heart, for some people at least, of both the fear and the opportunity that coming to counselling brings. There is tightrope we walk as clients and therapists between those two poles.
A secondary question that comes up is about depth. How far will this counselling go? Will it bring up painful feelings? Can I cope with what it brings up? And am I really ready to go there at this time in my life?
These are difficult questions to answer for ourselves as clients and as counsellors. In a sense, counselling is about creating a space where those feelings can be explored safely, without fear or judgement. But unless there is a will, conscious or unconscious, to go there, the road to getting to the heart of what ails us can’t be easily travelled.
Trying to explain the process of counselling is difficult. As I mentioned in my last article, yes empathy, congruence, unconditional positive regard are core. Yes, the therapeutic relationship is also key. But how does that explain the change that many people experience through counselling?
Have you noticed how a baby seeing itself in the mirror for the first times sometimes looks and smiles in recognition, sometimes turns away? Extending the analogy, if the counsellor is the mirror, the process allows the client to look at herself increasingly with a smile. By connecting with what has been painful and giving it expression, a healing process is begun. This is not only catharsis but also a re-imagining of the relationship with ourself, a more compassionate, integrated, perhaps balanced one which allows a shedding of old patterns and beliefs.
With that we move from self-attack to greater self-love, from fear and blocking off of our feelings to being with them. In opening up to the possibility of change, an energy is created which consciously and unconsciously catalyses the process of change itself. So perhaps it’s not so much about going deep, but saying yes I’m ready.
By Matt Fox – www.mattfoxcounselling.co.uk – Counselling in Totnes, Paignton and Newton Abbott