Do you want more out of life, something different, a new way of doing things and yet you do not have a clear idea of how to bring this about? Perhaps you have tried everything you can think of but things are not improving. You may be feeling overwhelmed by the events in your life. You may have experienced a catastrophe, loss or trauma (recent or buried in the past) and your coping skills have been stretched to the limit.
Have you considered speaking to a counsellor? It’s a way of building on assets you already possess. Courage, openness, clearly defined goals, accepting personal responsibility, hope, belief that things can change and a support system are some of the assets that a client can bring to counselling or learn during the counselling process.
It takes a great deal of courage to approach a stranger and ask for help. It takes courage to try new strategies and courage to be willing to make mistakes, evaluate what has happened, make adjustments and move on. It takes openness to discuss problems; listen to new ideas; try new behaviours; think about yourself and your life in new ways.
Knowing where you want to go is an important part of ensuring your arrival. You may start off with general goals such as wanting more out of life, wanting someone to change, wanting to be happy, wanting to be a better parent or wanting a better marriage; perhaps you may not have any goals in mind at all. Your counsellor will ask you questions that will help you understand how you will be behaving and thinking differently when you reach your goals. When you begin with the end result clearly stated and understood, the way to move forward becomes clearer and helps ensure that the results of counselling are what you really want.
In order to effect changes in your life, it is necessary to accept personal responsibility for bringing about those changes. When you wait for circumstances or another person to change, you adopt a “victim” stance. Accepting personal responsibility for discovering how you can change your life and implementing those discoveries removes you from a “victim” stance to a stance which is proactive and empowered.
When life is tough, hope helps you believe that somewhere there are answers that will stop the pain and help them obtain the life you desire. You may believe that it is only desperation that drives you to seek help, yet, the fact that you are considering reaching out speaks to the fact that you have not given up, that you are still willing to try at least one more thing.
Belief, like hope, can be faint when you approach your first session. As counselling progresses, you will develop the belief that you will be able to effectively use their newly obtained knowledge to bring about the changes you desire.
Lack of a support system can be a major drawback to success. Counselling will provide support and can be the first step in building a strong support system. Belonging to a support group helps you begin to lose their sense of isolation. It can be great encouragement to realize that others share the same burden, but survive and move on in life. Belonging to a church, athletic association, social group, or volunteer organization can also provide support. I usually discourage the use of the internet or finding support. there are just too many pitfalls and landmines!
Counselling helps you to modify behaviours and attitudes, find solutions, develop skills, and access your inner resources in order to move toward your chosen goals. If you believe the therapist understands your problems and has the skills to help, and you are ready to build on your personal resources, counselling will probably have a successful outcome
This article originally appeared in our PsycHealth newsletter, Winter 2007 issue.