The main goal of the counselling process is to increase awareness, particularly of thoughts and feelings in relation to the issues a client may be experiencing. This exploration can lead to the past in order to uncover the roots of difficulties. It can also be oriented towards the future, where goals, values and purpose can be explored.
Counselling can often involve contacting feelings that are uncomfortable or painful; it may also bring up feelings and experiences that were previously hidden from conscious awareness. In the process, it can sometimes feel that things are getting worse before they get better.
However, by working through difficult feelings, and developing a greater awareness of thoughts and behaviour patterns, the client can begin to have more of a sense of control. He or she can begin to experience having more 'psychological space', where there is a greater capacity to let go of unhelpful patterns and choose more beneficial ways to think and act. In effect, the result can be that there is more choice to respond, rather than react, to what life brings.
Counselling involves the development of a certain kind of relationship, known as a therapeutic relationship. For me as a counsellor, this is based on an unconditional acceptance of my client and the acknowledgement of my client’s unique journey through life. This attitude of acceptance, along with compassion and curiosity, helps to create a safe space where individuals can begin to feel free to bring the concerns and issues that they are experiencing.
The terms counselling and psychotherapy are often used interchangeably. They are frequently understood to be one and the same thing and this is generally the case. However, a distinction that is sometimes made is that counselling involves dealing with specific issues (e.g. addiction or relationship difficulties), whereas psychotherapy is a deeper exploration of the personality as a whole. In my work, both these terms adequately describe my approach.