Over the decades since therapy took a hold in the popular imagination in the nineteen-fifties the counselling relationship has been depicted as everything from a subject of ridicule to a complicated mystery.
Actually it’s an essential part of the healing journey. Just as little children grow up best with kind, loving, nurturing parents with good boundaries, when we need to heal our lives, we also need similar experiences with a therapist.
I work to build trust and safety so that my clients can explore past and present experiences. As well as understanding an individual’s problems, I seek to discover a client’s strengths and resources. The counselling relationship is a context where the client can learn to practice new or different skills for a healthy relationship with self and others.
People often think they have to change. Changing behaviours may be helpful or necessary. However, sometimes the desire to change is based on a non-accepting, critical or judgmental attitude toward the self. I support my clients to practice self-discovery and self-awareness with kindness, to accept who they are, and then seek to change in ways that are respectful of their capacities and starting point. Compassionate self-acceptance is, perhaps paradoxically, essential for real or lasting change to take place.
What is meant by The Psyche?
I view the psyche as fundamentally capable of healing and integration. The psyche, in my view, (which is not a traditional view) is the whole of any person: mind, body, emotions and spirit. It is the present expression of everything you have ever experienced and all the ways you have “digested” your life experiences, whether you can recall them or not. Just as our bones start the business of healing within hours of a break, so our psyche will naturally heal if we are willing and give ourselves supportive conditions for healing. I trust that the psyche will reveal itself through therapy. Its wisdom is often visible in dreams, in creative work clients bring in, in moments of intuition we share. I trust the client’s psyche to guide us, as I also trust my own experience, knowledge and awareness.
What role do emotions have in therapy?
Pain and difficult emotions cannot be got rid of. Our emotions, all of them, whether “negative” or enjoyable are potentially a source of self-knowledge and grounded decision-making. When we face what we feel with open interest and self-care (without letting emotions rule us), we become free to live without the past dominating the present. I encourage clients to find ways to accept the emotions that pass through their bodies and awareness, and to express their emotions in safe and healthy ways during sessions, so that they can become freer in their emotional expression with people they feel they can trust.
The counsellor as a teacher
Sometimes teaching is a part of counselling. By teaching elements of mindfulness practice and offering practical tools, clients improve their relationship to their thoughts and emotions. There are many simple conceptual models I use in my work that help my clients see their experience through different lenses, which in turn helps to free them to move ahead in life.
The counselling relationship develops over time. It can go through many phases, but in the end, like a parent-child relationship, the point is for the client to be free to leave, to return to their life, able to go on with life with confidence and relative ease in regard to the things that brought them into therapy.