Below are a few modalities or approaches the Counsellor may choose from when working with a client. These are just a taste of some of the more general approaches taken to counselling and psychotherapy in the modern era.
Therapeutic RelationshipAll Counselling studies show that the most helpful factor in improving the welfare of clients is the relationship between the client and the therapist. Working closely with another human being who takes the time to really listen and understand your concerns has been proven to help people through difficult periods in their life. Client and therapist work together in 'the here and now' of the counselling session to ensure your current needs and concerns are attended to.
Therapeutic ToolkitWhen working together your counsellor will choose methods and techniques that will benefit your individual circumstances and needs. Your counsellor may choose to use a combination of different therapeutic approaches to ensure you receive maximum benefit from the sessions. Whatever the issue or concern you can always be assured that your counsellor will:
- Not judge you or your actions
- Try to understand what you are going through
- Be honest and open with you
Emotionally Focused Therapy
My main interest lies in using Emotionally Focused Therapy (first developed by Dr Leslie Greenberg) as this allows clients to get in touch with their feelings and emotions. Developing self-awareness around feelings and re-experiencing them in the safety of the counselling session can help to facilitate change as the client can feel the difference in their body as well as intellectually.
I believe at the very core we are emotional beings who experience feelings as an adaptive mechanism to tell us what our needs and wants are. If our adult need for connectedness, validation and affection are not met then conflict will arise.
By connecting to our feelings, both secondary or surface feelings like guilt and frustration, as well as deeper primary feelings such as hurt, sadness, shame, anger and fear can allow us to discover our true needs and wants and change the ways we relate to ourselves and others.
At the heart of the person-centred approach is the belief that everyone is capable of solving their own problems and issues. The role of the therapist is therefore to ensure a supportive relationship develops between the client and counsellor allowing you to move towards a better sense of well being. Counsellors use their interpersonal skills to form a relationship with the client based upon respect, regard and an empathic awareness of what the client is going through.
Most counsellors, if not all, are well versed in the person-centred approach as it provides an important foundation for therapy to be successful. The importance of establishing a supportive therapeutic relationship cannot be overstated providing a safe starting point for the therapist to introduce other techniques and methods.
A very practical approach is taken towards the issues or concerns of the client where finding solutions to current problems are foregrounded. The therapist works with the client to create new solutions in the present so a brighter future can be created. Clients are encouraged to find the solutions to their problems themselves through thinking positively and sometimes 'outside the box'.
Gestalt therapy is grounded in 'field theory' which is a belief that human beings must be understood by viewing them as part of the environment, context or field they exist in. Like other modalities the aim is for the client to achieve self-awareness in terms of feelings, thinking and behaviour but also for them to become aware of how they interact with others.
Working with the therapist in the 'here and now' allows the focus to be upon how the client behaves in the present moment. When a client becomes fully aware of their particular ways of being and interacting, Gestalt therapists believe change will occur.
Based upon post-modernist principles, narrative therapy focuses upon the way we construct our own versions of reality using language to tell our stories. Post-modernists believe there are no absolute truths concerning human behaviour so it is possible to create alternative stories and views of an issue or problem.
A client's problem or concern is seen as separate from them, it is viewed as an external force impacting upon the person. With the attention shifted to the problem as an entity in its own right, the client and counsellor can work together to 'reauthor' a new preferred approach to life.
This approach is a modern take on Freud's theories regarding our unconscious motivations and desires. He believed that the unconscious mind often dictates and influences our actions and behaviour but it is difficult to pin down and notice our unconscious mind at work.
Psychodynamic therapy allows the unconscious or hidden motivations and desires to surface into the conscious mind allowing you to understand and appreciate why you behave in certain ways. Patterns from the past that repeat in the present day can be explored using this approach.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
This modality encompasses a broad range of approaches but all share the belief that thinking affects behaviour making it possible to monitor thinking and ultimately change negative beliefs. The combination of cognitive and behavioural methods assumes once people start to think differently they will correspondingly act in new and less self defeating ways.
An important belief central to the CBT approach is the fact that it is often not external events that are debilitating but our internal interpretation and view of such occurrences that lead us towards negative thinking and behaviour. Through the collaborative efforts of the client and therapist negative beliefs can be monitored and challenged. This, alongside behavioural techniques, means that you can practise new ways of thinking and rehearse new behaviours.
Counsellors just listen that's all
Counsellors are trained in advanced listening skills to ensure your issues are heard in an accurate, empathetic manner. We listen closely and give feedback to ensure we can reach a place of understanding regarding your concerns. Only through listening can understanding be shared between the counsellor and client. Once an understanding is agreed upon there are many more methods that can be used to help you achieve change, resolution or acceptance in your life but listening is the starting point.
Counsellors never offer advice
Most counsellors are opposed to giving advice to people as they believe the client is perfectly capable of sorting out their own problems and issues with the counsellor taking the role as a guide or fellow traveller along the way. Counsellors are not experts regarding your life, you are. However there are times when advice is given in the form of information for particular issues re-assuring the client that others have experienced similar problems. Sharing information might take the form of giving the client reading material, web site referral or psycho-education regarding a particular problem. Sometimes working with a younger client may mean the counselling is more directive than when working with adults.
Counselling cannot make you better
The aim of counselling is to help you make yourself better or help you to manage your symptoms more effectively. Counselling has been shown to work well alongside more medical approaches. Always check with your G.P if you are feeling unwell or have a history of mental health problems to see if counselling could help you.
It's just women who see a Counsellor
Counselling is for everyone, men, women, couples, families, groups, adolescents and children. Counselling is an inclusive activity where you are respected irrespective of your gender, background, sexuality, age, class, ethnicity or social status.
It's all talk and no action
It is true, Counsellors do encourage their clients to talk about their experiences, thoughts and feelings. More importantly though the counselling session is like a reflection of how the client interacts with others in the outside, wider world. By working in the here and now with a therapist, clients have an opportunity to practise new approaches and ways of being, embracing change in a safe, controlled environment. Often what happens outside the therapy session or between sessions can really help the client achieve change and a sense of well-being as the action taken inside the therapy room is applied to wider living.