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Reaching out into the unknown.

Counselling — admin @ 11:03 am

Here at Counselling Connections this week we have been reviewing how we communicate with you and ways in which we can reach out and explain counselling better. It seems to us that there are barriers which may stop you from coming to counselling. Our strategy is to explain counselling as best we can in plain English and also with the website and all of that to make getting in touch as simple as possible. Lots of you make your first contact with us through our website and send us an email with some of your questions. Practical matters like the cost of sessions and availability of suitable appointments are normally secondary issues. Understanding what counselling might do for you seems to be the top question. Not only is it the most difficult question to answer but it also seems to be the most difficult one to ask.
There may be lots of different reasons for this. Let’s give you an example: while walking up to the town recently we met a friend who asked how we were getting on. When we said that we are doing well and that we are quite busy he said ‘oh, oh dear that’s terrible’. This made us laugh but we knew what he meant. We are glad to be able to say that a busy counselling practice, far from being a terrible thing, is in fact a very positive one. It means that lots of people have come to a point where they decide they want to change things and are slowly going through a process of transforming their lives. Rather than add to any unhappiness that might be around we like to think that we reduce it. In fact, with the help of our clients, we are sure this is the case.
So, how do you go about making that first contact? And how do you know what to say? Well, it’s not unusual for someone when they come to see us first to say ‘I don’t know what is wrong with me’. And that’s as good a place as any to start a counselling relationship. It gives us a beginning, something to talk about. Sometimes people can be upset because they’ve never asked for help before and they see coming to counselling as a sort of failure of their coping skills. It’s fair to say that people quickly get over this once they become engaged in the counselling process and start talking about their lives.
There may also be an element of stigma. You hear some funny, well actually not so funny, things said about counselling by people who’ve never been. Labels are without doubt a big part of this and are perhaps the biggest barrier to starting counselling. There is a natural fear of ‘mental illness’ or being considered mad or crazy and people often joke about this nervously when they come to see us first. That nervous laughter is a good way to bring up a difficult subject and we are glad to take the time to explain that we don’t diagnose and we don’t attach labels. Our concern is simply to hear you talking about what is affecting your life and begin a process of exploring things and imagining changes.
One of the things about counselling is the idea of ‘not knowing’. You may not know how to get in touch. That’s okay; we’ll try to make that as straightforward for you as we can. You may not know what is wrong. And that’s okay too; it gives us a starting point, somewhere to begin. For our part we will not know any of the details of your life or the ways in which they have impacted on you. You are the expert on these things and you can fill us in as time goes on. I suppose that ‘not knowing’ is something which makes us all feel uncomfortable and that to some extent counselling is about looking into the unknown and trying to get to know it. In that way we hope that together we can relieve the discomfort of not knowing and facilitate a change to a more confident, secure way of being.
Counselling Connections, Dundalk.

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