Does the label that has been attached to this talking process fill you with fear and dread, or a sense of excitement and renewed hope? Over the years I have had a longing to see the therapy of counselling recognised by society in a more positive light. I have watched how many deny the therapy, through a sense of fear; as we so often turn our backs on something we don’t understand.
The image that counselling has developed, since Freud’s infamous couch, is that of an aggressive intrusion into our comfort zone. Yes, I won’t deny that sometimes it can be challenging, but the terrifying fear that we are going to be left to fall apart when our props are taken away, is completely unfounded. The modern supportive role of counselling today has, in my view, been undersold and needs to be emphasised more, in order for people to come to the therapy with a sense of safety and refuge.
I believe that this unfounded fear has also been fed by the stigma that surrounds the word “counselling” and the general view being that if counselling is taken up, then “there must be something mentally wrong with me”. The stoic stiff upper lip that is traditional to our British culture is also feeding in to this attitude. “We never had counselling years ago and we’re alright”.
Isn’t it about time we were told what it actually is all about, and what it can do for us?
So many have asked me “what is it for?”. So many think it is only to be considered as a last option, when all else fails. When we “can’t take much more”. I have listened to people many times, dismissing the idea that it can be beneficial. “Don’t they have any friends to talk to?” they say, as if this is all that is needed. How many people can we talk to who give us total unconditional attention without judgment? Just think how nice that would feel.
It is not surprising therefore that counselling has become alien to many and inaccessible to most. Clients summon up enormous courage to book the first session, but then look forward to each further session, positively enjoying the freedom of talking, with the knowledge that they are safe.
Counselling needs to be widely acclaimed as the supportive process which it is, the holding safety net for things we can’t understand. Someone to “be on our side” when we think no-one is, to provide that unconditional positive regard for us, no matter what. A guiding and supporting holding mechanism while we discover how we can look after ourselves again. A teacher to show us the tools for coping with whatever life throws at us. This is what it is all about, and it is all OK.