Of course, it is great when we are lucky enough to have friends and family that we can talk to, and even better still, to find those that listen to us. However, with friends and family, we can feel obligated to share the time between who speaks and who listens.
With a therapist it is all about listening to you. You don’t have to ask the therapist about their day, or feel guilty for talking too much. You don’t have to filter what you say as you won’t be judged, and you also don’t need to worry about protecting the therapist from whatever problems are bothering you – something that sometimes prevents us from fully and honestly confiding in friends or family. Often my clients tell me they have lots of support, but they can’t open-up about how they are truly feeling. They worry about upsetting the person, boring them with the ‘same old issues’, or feel guilty for ‘burdening’ them with their problems. Can you relate? I’m sure you can…
We don’t always want a ‘solution’, or a ‘I once did this, you should try it…’ Not that there is anything wrong with advice, it just needs to be at the right moment. Sometimes you may want to tell someone how you feel, and that’s it. Have you ever found yourself getting irritated when people tell you how to fix the problem? And then feel guilty afterwards because you know their intentions were good and they are just trying to help. We all do it, most of the time without even realising what we are doing.
The therapeutic relationship is different. With a therapist you often meet once a week for 50 minutes, ideally at the same time each week. This is your time and you don’t have to think about sharing it with anyone else.
Counsellors are extensively trained to help you work through problems and feelings that are causing distress. Depending on the approach, the therapist may help you to identify patterns in thinking, emotions, behaviours and relationship dynamics, or they may help you discover the underlying issues that are causing you problems. Most therapists will support the client to discover the answers for themselves, and though therapy may not eradicate or ‘fix’ the problem, working together will hopefully help the client feel more confident to deal with the issues, and feel healthier as a result.
Depending on the issues bringing a person to therapy, you will be supported at your own pace to work through the issues. You won’t be judged, and therapists are rarely shocked, so you don’t need to worry about that. We are comfortable with a range of different emotions, so you don’t need to hold back the tears – you won’t be told to stop crying.
Counselling also offers a confidential space, so you don’t need to worry about what you say getting back to friends and family.
Please don’t take from this that I’m saying that friends and family are not good support systems (unless that is your experience of course). However, in addition, and sometimes instead of, counselling can offer something different. Something that may benefit us all at various points in our lives.