How to get the most from counselling
Posted 10 Jun '13 by Gill Wier
The decision to come for counselling is a big step for many people and it involves a commitment of time and money. So to help you get the best value for your investment here are some tips on what you can do to get the most out of your experience of counselling.
1. Choose your counsellor carefully – research shows that the most important factor in making counselling effective is the relationship between the counsellor and the person being counselled. Choose someone you can connect with and feel comfortable talking to. The first step is to look online at the personal profiles of different counsellors. These can help you get a sense of who they are and also list important details such as their qualifications and the sort of issues they can work with. Meeting the counsellor face to face is essential to help you decide if it feels right to work with them.
2. Think about your hopes and aims – before attending the first session take a little time to reflect on what you are hoping for from counselling and share this with the counsellor when you meet them. For example you might be looking for someone you can talk freely with, some practical ideas for coping with a situation, to talk about childhood experiences or to focus on present difficulties. You may have a particular goal in mind such as letting go of a painful experience from the past or coming to a decision about a relationship. Sharing this at the start will help the counsellor decide if they are the right person to help you and to tailor the counselling to suit your needs.
3. Give feedback to your counsellor – most good counsellors will suggest a review after a certain number of sessions or invite feedback along the way about how you are finding the counselling and whether it is meeting your expectations. It is hard to be really honest with your counsellor but if you can share both what is helpful and what is not helpful in the counselling this will give important information to the counsellor about the best ways of working with you, enabling you to gain more benefit from the work.
4. Attend regularly, weekly if you can – my experience is that people gain most from counselling when they come weekly as this allows a trusting relationship to be built up more quickly and the issues to be dealt with in a shorter time. However, if due to financial reasons you prefer to attend fortnightly this is definitely still worthwhile. If you take this option discuss with your counsellor ways to stay focussed on the key issues in order to get the most out of each session.
5. Reflect between sessions – you are only in the counselling room for one hour a week so to gain maximum benefit find ways to continue engaging with the process on your own during the week. One suggestion is to make some time to reflect on how you found each session, the key issues that came up, new insights that you gained, questions you were left with. You may find it helpful to keep a journal to record thoughts, feelings and events that occur between sessions. Your counsellor might also suggest some homework tasks to try.
6. Finish well – a good counsellor will talk with you about when and how you want to end the counselling as this is an important part of the work. We often experience unplanned and painful endings in life. Counselling provides an opportunity to “end well” and it’s important to have a final session to review and reflect on the counselling journey - and to celebrate the changes you have made in your life!