Counselling – who, what, where, why and when?

Ok, let’s talk.

How do you feel about that?

What makes you happy?

Tell me your secrets?

There all the things that counsellors are meant to ask right? I’m meant to lay down on a coach, or sit in a surprisingly uncomfortable beige chair with a cream pillow and spill my deep dark soul until I can be called sane?

I’m sorry, but I can 100% say that I will not be doing that.

But the truth is, in the many different types of counselling I’ve experienced over the years, I’ve never had to do that. I’ve had ups and downs. Counsellors I’ve hated and counsellors I’ve loved. Courses I’ve dropped out of and ones I’ve been loyal to.

Then I had a break, I stopped for a couple of years.

In them years, I realised I need counselling, I need a counselling that’s different to what I’ve had in the past and something that fits into my life in a new way. In a ‘I’m not as ill as I used to be, but I’m not as well as I’d like to be’ way.

So I thought I’d let you guys into the secret of how I’ve come to the decision to restart therapy and what that has felt like three sessions in.

WHO?

This is the first time in my life where I’ve been able to select my own counsellor (going private has some advantages). All the sessions I’ve previously had have been NHS, the set of sessions I had privately before, I still didn’t get to choose. This has been massively helpful for me. As someone who has had mental health difficulties for years I’ve come to know my illness. I know that I respond better to men than to women (not in an anti feminist way, in a I’ve had more bad experiences with women than men so I’m more uneasy when they give me advice kind of way). I know I respond better to people who will be upfront with me than people who will be nice to me. I know I respond to someone telling me to suck it up more than I respond to someone who says, that must have been hard for you.

Finding the right person can be tricky, I’m three sessions in with mine so I’m not making judgements yet. What I can say is that I’ve had three very different sessions so far. The first was introductory, the second I was a mess and the third I was coming out of my mess. In each situation I can’t fault what he has said or done, apart from when he asked me ‘what hurt’ and I cringed internally for about 12 hours. I’ve linked below the counselling directory I use. It only lists professional accredited people and gives you a list of the areas of mental health each person is willing to work with.

http://www.counselling-directory.org.uk

What?

Explaining what counselling is is difficult, it means something different for everyone. It can be based on diagnosis, gender, age and all sorts of different things. Long story short counselling is, or should be, whatever you need it to be and if it’s not, it’s time to find something different. For me, counselling is a check in, its accountability and it’s being able to see someone and say ‘this happened and I’m not sure what to do about it.’ Counselling doesn’t just have to be spilling secrets or struggling through bad stuff, it can also be ‘this happened and I’m so excited’. For me it’s grounding myself.

Where?

Where depends, for me it’s in my counsellors house, it can be in offices or in hospitals or in coffee shops. But where ever it is, it’s important to be comfortable.

Why?

I’ve been through counselling before, that made me hesitant to do it again. I’ve done cognitive behavioural therapy, dialectical behavioural therapy and eating disorder counselling. Some in groups some one to one. There’s more that I’ve found unhelpful than helpful. When I was deciding whether I was going to start again I had to really think about it.

One of the symptoms of my diagnosis is dramatic mood changes. I find that every so often my mood suddenly clicks to depression, like someone has a remote and presses the wrong button. I’ve been out of NHS psychiatric services for around a year now and in that year, when my mood has dipped I’ve found myself googling counselling services. So last time it happened I thought, you know what, it would be great if I did this before things get to depression point, so I did. Long story short, (prepare yourself for some cheese) when I was ill the NHS services taught me how to exist, how to keep myself alive, what I’m hoping counselling will do is help me live and enjoy it.

When?

Whenever! One of the most important things I’ve learnt is that mental health is not just about getting help when things get bad. It’s about getting support when things are good so the bad becomes more sporadic. You don’t have to feel like shit to talk to someone. You don’t have to be having a breakdown. You can be having the best time of your life but still want someone to check in with.

I always worried I wasn’t ill enough to get help so I left it to the point I was worried I was too bad to be helped. Don’t do that, please.

We all deserve to live life and enjoy it.

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