Counselling can be a somewhat mysterious activity and sometimes intimidating, especially if you don’t know what to expect.
1. Counsellors are not there to give you advice.
A good counsellor will not tell you to move jobs or end a relationship. The good professional will help you to know yourself better, learn how you got into this particular difficult situation and support you to change your behaviour, attitude and the way you see the world. In that process you may or may not decide to make personal changes, but that is totally up to you.
The counsellor may suggest ideas and ways to look at situations but, if you feel you are being steered into a certain direction, make it clear to the professional. The therapist may also suggest ways to help with your specific condition such as depression, anxiety etc, but they must be respectful of your choices at all times.
Counselling is a space to develop your personal power, not to give it away.
2. They probably are in counselling themselves.
As part of the training there is a requirement that trainees will go through their own therapy, so they can learn about their own personal issues and understand better how it is to be a client.
Also the “tool” for counselling is the counsellor himself/herself. If he/she is not fit emotionally and mentally to do the job, the clients will not receive the best possible experience from that professional.
3. You don’t need a medical diagnosis to go to counselling.
It is sad that still today, after all the technological progress and information available, there is a stigma towards emotional and mental difficulties. You don’t have to be suffering with a psychiatric diagnosis to go to counselling, but if you are suffering with one, there is no shame in that either. You will be getting professional help, like for any other health issue.
Usually in the intermediate state when people hesitate to contact a counsellor, when you are struggling but not yet acute suffering, when you give yourself some time hoping these difficulties will go away. A lot of time is lost, and suffering prolonged unnecessarily.
A simple warning sign is that you could be feeling stuck, oppressed and not able to act as you would like. You may not be satisfied with aspects of your life or of yourself, and you may feel out of control. In this situation you could benefit from speaking to a counsellor about how you are feeling, and get some help to make sense of what you need to move forward.
4. You counsellor will not talk to his friends about you.
The most important rule for the counselling relationship to work is that the client can trust the professional, and confidentiality is essential for this to happen. As a result, counsellors only speak to trusted colleagues and their supervisors about clients and, even so, they will do in a sensitive manner to protect the person’s privacy and identity.
5. Counsellors will not be searching for you on Google or Facebook.
This is also a breach of confidentiality. We know that sometimes Facebook or other social media like LinkedIn will automatically suggest to add a person as a contact or friend, and that could be based on the fact you and your counsellors have exchanged emails. Even in those situations, the therapist should not be looking at your profile or any other information that is available to him/her outside the consulting room. It’s their job to protect your privacy.