Counselling as Healing
Because counselling is widely used alongside medication and provided as a service by many medical organisations, it is often thought of as being able to ‘cure’ conditions such as depression, anxiety, stress, conditions which we are all more or less susceptible to and/or which may arise out of our life situations. Apart from specific psychiatric illness, though, all these conditions are about us and how we are dealing (or not dealing) with what’s going on around us.
So curing, in the sense of treating and eradicating some alien thing, is not so much what it’s about. Healing, in the sense of making us whole and at one with our life, is a better description. And in the process of sorting out a better way of dealing with whatever’s going on, whether it’s about bereavement, or work, or illness, or relationships, or self-esteem, or family, or life crises, we will usually relieve and perhaps overcome the depression or anxiety or stress we were feeling.
There is one particular type of ‘counselling’ which is more specific in dealing with solutions, called cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT for short). It works through questioning beliefs and assumptions to devise fairly specific solutions. It is most effective as a short-term intervention for well-defined issues. For this reason I might use some elements of it in a limited way with some clients where it is important to have the early reassurance of a tangible gain.
But Counselling as healing aims for more fundamental changes in the way we see ourselves and the way we function. It works through the distortions which stop us becoming the people we can become – deals with our hang-ups and our baggage, if you like – so that we can emerge a renewed and re-invigorated really human being.
Individuals and couples
In essence the same philosophy underlies work with couples as with individuals: we can think of 'healing' a relationship in the same way as we think of healing ourselves. We can often tell how the partners in a relationship do not truly hear the other in all the feeling that is behind their words, in the same way as we might notice dissonances within ourselves when the part of us which is driving what we do is not in tune with the person we truly are.
In working with couples, I will work with how each partner listens and how they can get a sense of feelings and not just words. From that can come understanding as each becomes more real for the other. It is only when both are genuinely encountering the other, seeing them as the person they truly are, that the work of learning about 'being together' can start.
Not all relationships can last. We are never on the same track as our partners, at best we are on a parallel track. And simply with living through the years the tracks may diverge. Often they can be brought back together, if it can come about that each is able to be the person they need to be, and be that person alongside their partner. But sometimes it is necessary to be happy for the life that has been shared, while acknowledging the people we now are and the way we need to go.
Counselling as a Life Aid
I like to think of counselling as a process which can help through many passages in life, not just those times when there is a specific issue or condition or illness to deal with. Those are some of the times when it might seem natural to use counselling, but there are more. It can help with choices, decisions, realising your potential, discovering and developing yourself, becoming effective as a person. In this way it sounds more like coaching, and some people might call this part of my work ‘life-coaching’. But I come from a slightly different angle.
We are the people we are
That sounds obvious. But sometimes we want to be someone totally different from who we are, outside the range of what is possible for this person who is living and breathing here and now.
Why not use the person you are?
The person who has all this life experience, good and bad, and has developed a way of thinking feeling and acting which has been the means for surviving up to now? You could say – why throw the baby out with the bath water? The life-counselling equivalent of that is to start with who you are, not just where you are; understand the person you really are; find that person something to believe in that comes from within.
So we’re not about grafting on clever techniques or learning formulae for thinking and acting. In the end there’s nothing to be gained from positive thinking unless it’s our own thinking.
What we’ll do together is:
discover the person you really are
understand the person you really are
ask how that person can be most fulfilled
work on finding the best path