The counselling process
February 17, 2021
Counselling is always a process. There are no easy fixes, no one-size-fits-all remedies, no certainties. There are models and principles and techniques, but still, we must start from where we are. And success doesn’t rely on the counsellor. However brilliant they might be, they can only be alongside you as you reach out for a more fulfilling life. It’s a journey... a process.
The process begins with an assessment. This is probably the most structured set of questions you’re ever likely to encounter in a session. They help me find out if I’m able to offer what you’re looking for and if my approach feels right for you. I’ll ask about your history, the context of the issues you’re bringing, your therapeutic, psychiatric and medical experience and any potential risks from self-medication, self-harm or even thoughts of suicide. It’s well-meant and important to evolving an effective plan and it is intrusive. So, it’s important you understand that I’m bound by professional confidentiality. With only two exceptions, nothing that passes between us will ever be disclosed. All notes will be kept securely and your name will never appear on any documents. The only two exceptions are, if I believe that you present a danger, to yourself or others, or if you tell me you are committing a criminal offence. In either case, I’m bound to share those concerns with my supervisor. But, I will always discuss my thoughts with you first.
2. The agreement
Assuming we’re both happy to work together, I’ll prepare an agreement between us. This will outline the boundaries of our working relationship and act as a container for the work we do together. It will detail the time and duration of sessions, the fees you’ll pay, what happens if you miss a meeting and what should happen when you want to bring our work to an end. It is though, an agreement. The terms are negotiable. If there’s an aspect you don’t like, or something you can’t agree to you must let me know. This agreement, or one very like it, must be signed before we can begin.
3. The work
To begin, we'll normally set a time frame of 6 weeks before we review how we're getting on. It’s really important that we have clear goals and of course, goals change. It’s common for deeper issues to become clearer over the course of the work and natural that we steer with the prevailing wind. So long as we stay clear about what we are aiming to achieve.
Sessions themselves tend to follow a pattern. We start with a theme, perhaps coming from previous sessions, or from something you bring on the day. The middle of a session usually explores this theme in more depth. We might use visualisation or other creative techniques if you’re comfortable with that, to gain insight into the issue. Finally, most sessions end by placing our work together into the context of your everyday life, so you leave with a sense of completeness about the work done.
Of course, plans are just plans. It’s you that really shapes the way sessions unfold. What wants to emerge usually does.
4. The ending
The relationship between counsellor and client is special. But, it is a professional one and naturally, will come to an end. That doesn’t necessarily mean the work is complete. Only that our time together has reached its conclusion. I generally like to prepare for an ending so that everything that needs to be said has been and we can clear the table before we move on. We usually review issues which you feel remain to be resolved. We’ll take a bird’s eye view of the progress we’ve made or failed to make and the impact we’ve had on your life, going forward. One of the most important things to know, is that I completely understand that our relationship is professional. However close we become, I will always want you to pursue what feels right for you, even when that means leaving me. It is both a sad and a happy occasion and never something to feel anxious about raising.
5. After the end
The successful outcome of the counselling process might best be described, if perhaps rather vaguely, as an expanded sense of identity. It may not have changed the external circumstances of your life, but it should have left you more able to meet adversity with equanimity and more motivated to make the changes you want.
As a transpersonal counsellor, there’s another level on which I believe counselling works. Each of us is in a process of unfolding our own unique life purpose. Despite our existential difficulties, we sense the steps we must take towards fulfilment. Every counsellor is ultimately aiming to support you on that path towards your own self-actualisation.