So, Counsellor, What Do You Actually Do?

how does counselling workRecently, I had a call from someone looking for a counsellor. They asked me two perfectly reasonable questions –  “How do you work? And what do you actually do?” These are tricky questions to answer since the kind of narrative therapy I offer is not so much about what I do with the people who come to see me, but more about how I am with them. The trouble is that this always sounds a bit vague and peculiar!

Essentially, my approach to counselling and psychotherapy involves conversations which have the potential to transform the way you live your life – and although the focus is firmly on what is going on for you, such a conversation will also have an effect on me. I work collaboratively which means that the two (or three) of us will explore and weave together ideas, opinions, thoughts and feelings to create a space for new possibilities to emerge. Therapy becomes a mutual inquiry and a joint activity. I will be interested and curious about your life and together we can wonder, question and reflect on different responses to the world.
I have found that people always know more about themselves than they think they know. I assume that you are the expert on your life and as such it is not up to me to tell you what I think you should do. What I am good at, however, is helping people grasp that just-out-of-awareness knowledge and put it to good use. Also, I bring my own insight, experience and theories about what it is to be a human being, how we develop in early life and the possible effects of major challenges such as trauma and loss. Sometimes this knowledge will be useful for you to think about. And sometimes it will not; I have never yet come across a person whose life fits neatly into a theory or category.
I take an active role in the therapy process. This means that in the course of our conversations I will offer you my thoughts and feelings in the hope that knowledge of what it is like for me to be with you will help you find out more about yourself. Also, I trust you to know what resonates with you and what doesn’t quite fit. Lastly, I share an equal responsibility for change. I know that something different has to happen for the process to be useful to you and as such I am prepared to pay careful attention to what you have to say, to take risks, to tolerate uncertainty and to offer my most honest response.
I’m still not sure I’ve answered the questions posed above – although maybe I have got a little closer to explaining what therapy with me would be like. I suppose I am an expert on the sort of conversations that can bring about change. I chose a basket weave picture to accompany this post. I was thinking about how the warp and the weft threads alone don’t leave you with very much but put the two together and the list of possibilities they can make is endless. Two people together can weave a very different conversation than either could on their own; pooling their knowledge and thoughts and feelings to arrive at a different, better story than the one you are living now.
If you live or work within reach of Brighton and Hove and my approach to counselling and psychotherapy interests you, please contact me via email or telephone 07585 910742 for more information and to arrange an initial consultation.
Copyright: Caroline Clarke, help with anxiety in Brighton and Hove
Image courtesy of panuruangjan /
Ref: Anderson, H. (2012) Family Process Vol. 51 No. 1.

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