Before we get on to the reasons to have counselling, lets first take a look at what counselling is.
Quite often counselling can feel like such a daunting prospect. To open up, talk about your deepest and most vulnerable experiences, let out the emotions that come with those experiences, and explore how to process it all... Then to be doing this with a stranger who you know barely anything about.
What comes to mind for you when you think of counselling?
Speaking to friends and family some words that come to mind for them were concerns around being judged, how they were going to open up and trust this person, if it would help them, and that it would feel intimidating.
Counselling, or therapy, was often thought of as something only 'unstable' people needed; those with something wrong with them, outcasts of society. It was seen as something 'to fix' someone who was broken in the eyes of society.
The stigma around receiving counselling is changing and more people are accessing therapy off their own initiative rather than it being a last resort, however it can still feel quite challenging to access therapy whether it's through the NHS, a Charity, or finding a Private Therapist.
For me, as a therapist, counselling is a process that anyone can access to look at their ways of coping with difficult situations, mental health, or wellbeing and so is open to everyone at any point in their lives.
So why would you have counselling? What can you use it for?
There are an unlimited amount of reasons to have counselling...
In a crisis - it may be that you are really struggling to cope with everything going on in your life. Sometimes clients may be at breaking point and can't see a way out - this may or may not involve thoughts of suicide, having a mental health condition that isn't being managed, having a health problem that isn't being managed.
When in a crisis for the first time, it is likely you will be accessing counselling via a mental health professional or GP and so will be referred to short term sessions through a funded service.
If you have experienced a crisis before it may be that you find your own therapist, but this can be overwhelming when already in a state of despair.
Often sessions will be very in the moment focused to begin with to look at immediate support for the short term to help manage the crisis, from this you can then go on to look at more long term support/coping skills.
Struggling but not in crisis - this may be for things such as bullying, discrimination, a dip in mental health, relationship struggles i.e. something that is going on for you in the present which is having an impact on your wellbeing in some way.
A change in life - it may be that a big change is coming up, or maybe you're already going through a change. This could be events such as wedding, divorce, break up, new relationship, job promotion, change in career, moving town/country etc.
Maybe you want to look at putting plan in place and explore how you can cope with these changes.
Maybe you need a different perspective or some time to offload your thoughts and feelings about the change.
Facing a difficult decision and want an outside perspective to work through what you want to do.
You may have noticed a pattern in your own behaviour that you want to explore in more depth.
You may have noticed your mental health dipping and want to look at more coping skills, self care, or ways of managing your mental health going forward.
Something from your past that you haven't quite worked through yet and now feel ready to explore - this could be something a trauma that happened, it may be a relationship that didn't last, a loss not yet explored.
You could be seeking counselling for a specific reason for example: Loss/grief or coping with Chronic Illness.
Maybe there's something you can't quite put your finger on but you just don't feel happy.
You might want to have some guided exploration to learn more about yourself and your identity, your sexuality, your gender, the way you relate to others etc.
There are plenty of other reasons to seek support in this way, all of which are completely valid.
My point of view is that we all have mental health and well being, sometimes we may need to get a little bit of extra support with managing these when things are piling on. Therapy is an investment into ourselves; similarly to how we'd seek medical support for any physical ailment.
What my friends and family say:
"Everyone should have some form of counselling, someone to discuss your problems with"
"Just go! Sometimes having a non judgmental sounding board is just what you need to help give you a new perspective on an issue" "Be clear about what you want from it, and ask for it. Don’t give up if you have bad chemistry. Be ready to do some difficult work, and be vulnerable, and to hurt a bit because it will help!" "Just go for it. You don't have to discuss intimate details if you don't want to."
"Go into it with an open mind. I was always quite closed off to it, saying things like "I can barely talk to so and so about X, so how can I be expected to express my feelings to a random person?!". Counselling was helpful, and although I don't think it was the sole reason I managed to overcome the emotions I was feeling, I think it was the beginning of the end - almost, the kick-start I needed to start working through my anxiety. My advice would be not to go into it thinking "I'll go, talk, and in 3 sessions I'll be fixed". I'd say you'd need to go to it with the expectation that you'll need to work through things independently alongside the counselling."
Where do we go from here?
There is still a lot needed to go into our mental health providers so that everyone can access counselling quickly and within our means.
Services & Charities like the NHS, Mind, The Mix, Kooth etc. are great places to start but majority do only offer short term sessions so will only go so far.
Finding a Private Counsellor/Therapist is the best bet in getting long term support however this can be costly and comes with the risk of going through a few counsellors in order to find someone you feel comfortable with.
If you're at school or university and haven't had counselling before there may be services you can access via your educational institution for free so speak to someone from the pastoral team for more information.
If you're under 18 and you want counselling without your parents/guardians knowing you can access short term sessions via the organisations below:
I would suggest if you're an adult who hasn't had counselling before and you're unsure if it's something you feel comfortable with - speak to your GP or look to go to a charity for free sessions to try the short term. If you find you want to explore more of what comes up for you, you can then look into longer term support.
Where to look?
If you've had counselling before and you are looking for a private therapist then there are some places to look that show therapists are trained and verified to rule out finding someone who hasn't done any training.
Where to look?