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Do I Really Need Counselling?

which way do i go?
How do I know if counselling is for me? Do I/we really need to go to counselling? Is my issue something people really go to counseling for? Is talking therapy what is really needed? and Do you think speaking with a counsellor will help?

These and similar questions are all too common to what I regularly get asked during a 15 minute consultation. Therefore, let us explore these questions together...

What Is Talking Therapy?

Talking therapy, is a process that involves you talking with a trained professional about your concerns regarding your holistic wellbeing, your relationship/s and any other areas of your life, you wish to explore.

Talking therapy, can also be known as counselling, psychotherapy and just therapy. Each has a specific definition, however, most times, they are used interchangeable.

As a Humanistic therapist, with a private counselling practice, I admit I am bias, as I believe that we can all benefit, from some form of counselling, regardless of where you are in life, and how you feel.

Do Our Personal Stories Impact The Need For Counselling?

We all have a story about ourselves and that story is shaped by our cultural background, foundational upbringing and interactions with others, both from the past and present, that has impacted our lives. These stories will include experiences, challenges and adversities we may have faced once, or repetitively, that has kept us stuck in unhelpful patterns of thought and behaviour.

So... How do we address these unhelpful patterns?

This is where my biasness kicks in, to introduce ‘counselling’.

However, there is something about the word ‘counselling’ and the phrases ‘seeing a counsellor’ or “speaking with a counsellor”, that sets our Amagdala (emotional security alarm) off - Why is this?

What is it that makes us hesitate to pick up the phone, or send that enquiry email?

Let’s explore what makes us think twice about taking the plunge, into therapy.

Counselling vs Stigma

Stigma can be defined as ‘negative beliefs’, that can develop from; our cultural upbringing, experiences and interactions, within society.

So How Can Stigma, Negatively Impact Our Decision Making, To See A Therapist?

Some cultures and communities rank privacy, as a high value. Therefore, issues with oneself, or within the home, should not be shared externally, but to ‘keep it in-house, and behind closed doors’ - because ‘we don’t share our troubles with outsiders’.

Seeing a counsellor for therapy, can also be seen as a sign of weakness - that you lack the ‘success’, to cope with the issues (or your household) yourself and by seeing a therapist, you are now bringing ‘shame’ upon yourself, your family and/or your community.

Now, as a black therapist in private practice, I can relate to this, quite closely, regarding my own community. However I am proud to see a movement within the black community, of us breaking the barriers, to reach out for the required support and not sit in silence.

Counselling vs Internal Factors

When looking at internal factors and the power of internal persuasion and denial. How many times have you used the phrases?

  • “tomorrow, next week or starting Monday, I will sort myself out, once and for all”

  • “if I give it enough time, I will no longer feel the way I do”

  • "it's just a blip or hurdle I’m going through”

  • “I just need to keep telling myself to be patient”

Then there are those cycles or yoyo thoughts, feelings and behaviours of ‘ok’ vs ‘not ok’

For example, it can happen unexpectantly, where you are triggered and those intrusive thoughts and feelings, suddenly appear. They are hard to process, spiral around repeatedly, on auto replay and won’t go away. So this is the point where you may decide, it is time to speak to a therapist. However, within that same moment, you suddenly feel more peaceful, and rather than connecting the relief to ‘making a change’, you rationalise, that you are OK - “what was all the fuss about, I don’t need counselling?” and so, with that deep down niggling feeling, of knowing it will be back again, you continue to pack those same intrusive thoughts and feelings ‘back in a box’, ‘behind a closed door’, or ‘swept under the carpet’, until the next time.

Lastly, What about the fear of the unknown and what to expect from your counselling session? For instance;

  • “What will I say during my sessions?”

  • “Is my counselling sessions confidential”

  • “Supposing I cry in my session - how will my therapist react?”

  • “Will my counsellor discover something wrong or strange, with my thoughts, feelings and/or behaviours?”

  • “How deep will my counsellor dig into my painful past that I have locked away?”

  • “How open can I truly be with my counsellor?”

My response to the benefits of individual talking therapy, is the huge potential of positive impact, it can have on your wellbeing. As effective therapy can improve multiple areas of your life, benefiting you holistically - mentally, emotionally, spiritually, socially and even physically.

As a private counsellor, our therapeutic methods can provide you with the opportunity and safe space, for you to:

  • Talk openly and honestly and reflect, about your thoughts, feelings and behaviours, so to develop a better understanding of yourself.

  • Improve your self-esteem by developing your confidence and your ability to take charge of your own emotions and wellbeing

  • Empower you to be proactive in taking positive steps forward - goalsetting for the future

Counselling vs Relational Factors

So in this scenario, were looking at partners, whether marriage counselling, couples therapy or premarital counselling. So let us look again at those internal factors and the power of internal persuasion and denial, when we have repeatedly said…

  • “sooner or later, things will go back to the way it was”

  • “it’s not you, it’s me - I just need more time”

  • “in time, they will change”

  • “I will be wasting my time going to therapy, so either they change, or I’m leaving them”

  • “I’m not going to say anything to them about how I am feeling anymore, as they don’t listen, so why would it be any different in counselling”

  • “My partner doesn’t even try to understand me, and how I’m feeling, so how can counselling help”

  • “Nothing they say in counselling will make me forgive or trust them again/anymore”

  • “Were in a good place and not married yet, so do we really need a therapist, although I not sure what our future roles, needs and wants looks like”

Sounds familiar? OK, then lets look at those cycles or yoyo thoughts, feelings and behaviours of ‘ok’ vs ‘not ok’. For example…

  • Laughing, joking and positive intimacy which changes to arguments and name calling

  • Saying “I love you”, to then saying “I can’t keep doing this anymore”

  • Being loving one moment, then when triggered, that moment is now filled with mistrust again

  • Having open conversations and empathy, replaced with, disagreements and not understanding each other’s point of view

  • Working as a team and negotiating to struggling to compromise

  • Being wanted and needed, to feeling your ignored and unappreciated

  • Feeling on track and united, to being triggered, therefore reopening old wounds, hurt and frustration.

Lastly, the fear of the unknown within a couple’s counselling session. For instance;

  • “Do we all take turns to speak - or what about if my partner speaks more than me, how fair and balanced will that be - will I be heard?”

  • “Supposing my partner cries in the session - how will the therapist react - will they blame me for that, or see me as cold, if I don’t react to my partner?”

  • “Will our counsellor discover something wrong or strange, about our marriage/relationship/partnership and how we speak and behave with one another?”

  • “Will our counsellor take sides with my partner, because I am the one to blame for our relationship breakdown.

  • “Will the counsellor rehash old wounds, that have been kinda dealt with, and left unsaid?”

During couple’s therapy, a counsellor’s role is not to take sides, nor to be judgmental but to maintain neutrality, as well as having an openness and empathetic understanding, throughout the therapy process. Our role is also to facilitate a safe, open space where clients can share their thoughts and feelings with each other - communicating in a language, that removes assumptions, so couples can fully hear, understand and empathise with one another.

What Is The Conclusion, Do I Really Need Counselling?

On conclusion, there are endless barriers, to question, engaging with therapy but if these difficulties or concerns are having a negative impact on your wellbeing, questioning your ability to commit, or affecting your ability to function in your daily life, then, it is important you get help. As most often, by the time I am asked about counselling, I tend to find the person/s has/have already past the threshold of when I would have advised seeking support.

Now, I want to make something really clear, that coming for counselling, has to be your choice and not because someone has told you that “you need counselling”. To elaborate, when that person made that comment, ‘were they coming from a good place’ - meaning a heartfelt concern for your wellbeing? As, seeing a therapist, has to be a your personal choice, rather than something you have been told to do, or given an ultimatum. I cannot stress anymore, that the importance of self concept, self-exploration and development, can only begin with knowing you have autonomy and control of your counselling journey.

Therefore, if you have read this blog, because you have some reservations about therapy, I truly hope, it has helped. As moving forward begins with just one small step at a time, towards wanting to heal, change, or develop, a better future self and relationship.



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