Is counselling for psychologically ill people or those with mental disorders? / If I require counselling, does that mean I’m not “normal?”
Normalcy is perhaps one of the most hyped myths. There is no definition of normalcy. It consists of perhaps a group of personal reactions and situations that society finds desirable. However, all of us deviate from that standard in some or the other way. Requiring counseling simply means you are perhaps in a situation, which may be an external or internal situation, where you are confused and disturbed and you need help to work with that situation.
What is counseling?
Saying it simply, counselling is consulting with a therapist who is an objective, non-judgmental and professionally trained person, with whom you can share your innermost thoughts and feelings. This helps you to understand yourself better and helps you to address your emotional difficulties in a more adaptive fashion. These difficulties could be something you are facing in day to day life, a situation you are unable to deal with, a decision you find difficult to make, a relationship you find difficult to handle, a past you are unable to get over or emotions and feelings you find difficult to accept and deal with.
Counselling involves a relationship with the therapist, based on trust and honesty from both sides. All interactions you have with the therapist are extremely confidential and in no way will be revealed to anyone, however close to you, unless you explicitly request the therapist for the same. It is obligatory for the therapist to be absolutely honest with you too.
What to expect from counseling?
Any emotional problem or difficulty has its roots in our inner nature. Our feelings depend on how we think about ourselves, others and our situations. Often we think in ways that are not rational or we think about situations mistakenly. This is not because we are “foolish” or “wrong” in any way but because we have learnt to think of certain things only in certain ways. Being professionally trained to be unbiased and objective, a therapist is able to help you look at the negative or irrational patterns of thinking, which provides you with some clarity of perspective and helps you, deal with the problem more effectively. In addition, the psychotherapist is able to provide you with tools and techniques to work on those difficulties.
When you expect a magical or a quick fix solution from counselling, there is space for disillusionment. It is a slow process where you first accept that some changes are required within you and you progressively work at making those changes. Expecting the therapist to make your decisions or solve your problems will lead to your disappointment. She does not make your decisions, but helps you make and accept your own decisions and trust in them.
She is a support system for you. In your worst moments, your therapist will stand by you without judging you for your mistakes; however, she will also point out when there are mistakes.
How long will counseling last?
Entering the counselling process is entering into a new relationship with your therapist. Who is to say how long that relationship should last? Since counselling is a means of exploring your self and identifying your inner patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving, which have developed over years, it would take counselling at least a few months to help you understand a different way of addressing them. It is not for the therapist to set a deadline for counseling. It depends entirely on your inner feeling about the positive change you perceive within yourself.
(I have some people who have been with me for years. Initially they saw me once a week but now they come in once in 2-3 months just to recheck whether they are looking at a problem rationally or if the approach they are using to address the problem is objective.
Also some are just happy to know that I am around in case they need me, even though they are doing too well to have to see me professionally.)
How do I know when I am ready to discontinue counseling?
When you feel confident, are able to decide for yourself and feel like seeing your therapist less often, you are ready to discontinue. Abruptly putting a halt to counselling is not encouraged; instead a gradual decrease in the frequency of the sessions is suggested as a better option. However, you can be honest with the therapist regarding how you feel about discontinuing and come to a decision regarding what can be most beneficial for you.
Can I be friends with my therapist?
The therapist is your friend. She has your concern the closest to her heart. However, she is a professional and like every profession, being a therapist too comes with a code of dos and don’ts. Hence you pay for her time with you. Most of the time involved in therapy is focused on dealing with your emotional difficulties. However you can occasionally talk to her about your and her hobbies, passions and interests, provided they are not a means of keeping the primary issue at bay. If and when she feels that is happening, she would be sure to let you know. Also if you wish to call her when you are unable to deal with some feeling or situation and if it is a brief talk, you may. If it requires some length of time for discussion you would need to request for a sooner appointment.
Will I get dependent on my therapist?
On the contrary! Therapy aims at making you independent and helps you to believe in your own decisions and accept their consequences. During the initial stages of psychotherapy, however, you may feel like seeing your therapist often. You may feel uneasy if she is not available as per your requirements. That is primarily because you have started to look at your difficulties in a different light, which is making you uneasy and confused and you need her for reassurance. It is also because you are glad to have that new found support and you feel less lonely with her around. This is however only initial and will wear off in a few months as your belief in yourself increases and as you feel more comfortable being yourself in front of others. Remember, counseling is not a crutch for weak people. People who choose it are those who have set out to make a difference to their lives by initiating change rather than passively waiting for situations to change.
Is my therapist emotionally involved with me? / Does my therapist really care for me?
Your therapist is as human as you are and so your problems do touch her. Hers is a caregiver’s role. She cares for you deeply because she sees herself now in a role where she needs to ensure your well-being. At the same time, she is also equally cares for all the other people she is seeing simultaneously. Hence, she may at times be busy for you, may not be able to attend to you immediately, may not receive your calls instantly and this may make you feel less cared for. That, needless to mention, is untrue. You make her a part of your life and trust her with your innermost thoughts. Be certain, she respects that and will not be careless with you. However, you must talk to her about the way you feel, if you feel she is less involved.
What is group therapy?
Group therapy consists of a session conducted with a group of people. This group of people may be matched in terms of the problems they face or any other parameter that the therapist feels will be beneficial. The therapist may choose this group of people because she feels that they may be able to benefit each other by a sharing of their concerns and group dynamics will help them to deal more effectively with their own problem areas.
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