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What is counselling?


Many people have heard of counselling, and even wondered if it is something that would help them. Many have asked themselves “what is counselling”? but, due to feelings of shame or issues with stigma, may not have actually asked that question out loud.

If you are considering counselling, or you are simply curious, this post is for you. It aims to help you understand the often shame-inducing question: What is counselling?

So, what is counselling?

Simply put, counselling is a process (conducted by a trained professional) that allows people to talk through (while mentally, physically, and emotionally processing) difficult feelings and encounters they have had in life.

It is a confidential space like no other in the world, where the focus is solely on the client and their reality. It is tailored to the individual needs of the client, rather than being a blanket “treatment” or “one size fits all”.

Counselling can come in a range of formats, for example:

  • Face-to-face: In-person sessions in a room with a counsellor. Traditionally, these were the ones you saw on TV with the person laying on the couch. However, we have moved away from this way of working in the profession, and you are likely to be sitting upright in a chair… Unless you want to lay down, that is! However, these sessions are not always conducted in a room, sitting in a chair. They might also be done while walking or doing an activity, depending on the counsellor’s training.

  • Telephone counselling: Conducted over the phone with no visual cues. Counsellors who engage in this type of work should be trained, and will be able to pick up on the cues that are normally gained through visual contact with a client, through listening to changes in tone, breath, and speed of speech, for example. Telephone counselling can be helpful when your counsellor lives at a distance or when a client is experiencing a lot of shame and or anxiety.

  • Video counselling: This type of counselling is also known as online counselling, however, the term also covers telephone and email, so I have chosen to specify it as video counselling. These sessions are usually conducted over a video streaming platform, like Zoom or sometimes Facetime. Again, counsellors working in this way should have had training to do so, and may work in a range of ways to help the client. Some examples from my experience working in this way are:

    • I have asked my client to prop their camera in a certain way, so I can watch them as they draw something as part of our session.

    • I have asked my client to move the camera so I can see their physical responses as we talk.

Like telephone counselling, video counselling can be helpful when the client lives at a distance from the counsellor.

  • Email counselling: Email counselling can be great, especially when working over different time zones. It can be done in two ways:

  1. The client and the counsellor email each other back and forth for the duration of the session.

  2. The client writes to the counsellor, and the counsellor reads and responds to the client during the session time. This last way usually takes up the whole session time, and so the client then has the next seven days to write their response and get it back to the counsellor before the date and time of their next session, where the process will repeat itself.

Again, when supporting clients who are dealing with high levels of shame or anxiety, email counselling can be great. I like to use it with some clients as a transition into video counselling.

  • Counselling in a group: Most of the formats above can be offered to a group too, depending on suitability. Group therapy is where clients with similar issues all work with the same counsellor during the therapy room. Usually, everyone is in the room together, the therapist will lead the session. Everyone in the group will share, as part of the counselling process.

Alright, and while we are at it… What is a counsellor?

A counsellor is a person who has professional qualifications in therapeutically and analytically supporting people through difficult emotions and encounters. The counsellor will guide you (the client) through your experiences and through a process of change.

There are many different types of counsellors, trained in different ways of working with individual client needs. The human race is so diverse in likes, dislikes, race, age, culture, and more that it would be impossible to have one way of working, or one analytical theory that “works” for everyone.

To find out more about the different types of therapy, click [here]. It can be useful to take a look to help inform what type of counsellor might be right for you.

I will be delving deeper into this topic over the next few months, looking at the different types of therapeutic professionals, the cost of therapy, and what happens in the therapy. Make sure you follow me on [Instagram] to keep up to date with each post as it comes out.

I hope this post has helped your understanding of counselling. If you have any questions, or want to suggest a future topic, email me or drop me a comment 🧡

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