How can counselling nourish your soul?
Counselling involves talking with a suitably trained professional about concerns or difficulties you are facing, and receiving support from them to help you improve your mental, emotional and possibly physical wellbeing. Categorised as a talk-based therapy counselling is intended to help you gain clarity and understanding of the challenges you face in a confidential and non-judgemental setting.
Your counsellor will be able to provide you with support and strategies to help you cope with adversity and resolve concerns you feel unable to conquer on your own. A counsellor will work collaboratively with you to help you see things from a different perspective, and use evidence-based techniques to help you regain peace, balance and happiness in life.
Some counsellors also describe themselves as psychotherapists, which can cause confusion about the distinction between the two modalities. In general, psychotherapy is often seen as a distinctly defined role, while counselling services might be provided by practitioners such as GPs in addition to their primary line of work.
Psychotherapy tends to support overarching changes at the level of your personality, and may help you define and embrace your identity for greater mental stability and satisfaction in life. Counselling, on the other hand, often focuses on a specific and precisely defined concern, such as coping with grief, managing anger, increasing intimacy in relationships, or overcoming addiction.
There is considerable overlap between counselling and psychotherapy, as well as psychology, which is another related modality. The discipline of psychology also has similarities to both counselling and psychotherapy. However, in Australia, the profession of psychology is regulated by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), and it is compulsory for all practising psychologists to be registered.
Trained counsellors are professionals with three to six years of tertiary education in counselling or related fields such as psychology. However, in Australia, there is no legal requirement for someone who provides counselling services to have formal training. Before choosing a counsellor, check the Australian Register of Counsellors & Psychotherapists, where all listed practitioners are professionally qualified and must undergo continuing development and clinical supervision.
Benefits of counselling
As an evidence-based modality, counselling has been consistently reported to provide “substantial” benefits for a range of different problems in robustly designed studies. Research suggests supportive counselling may be an effective treatment for depression in adults, and there is evidence to suggest people suffering from depression may prefer to receive counselling therapy than take pharmaceutical antidepressants.
Family counselling is reported to possibly improve communication between parents and children, as well as potentially strengthen relationships between siblings. Relationship counselling may help reduce conflict and resolve problems within an intimate partnership such as a marriage, improve communication and reduce distress. A counsellor can provide impartial support for couples going through a separation or divorce, helping both partners cope with anger and grief, find peace and learn to come to terms with this turning point in their lives.
Specialist counsellors may be able to help you navigate a path through adversities ranging from financial hardship to loss and bereavement. Counselling may also help you find strategies for overcoming addiction, dealing with traumatic events, managing anxiety, and building confidence and self-esteem. The greatest overall benefit you might be able to receive from counselling is support in conquering the obstacles that keep you from leading a happy, fulfilled and peaceful life.
Counselling can assist in relieving symptoms related to:
- Anxiety and stress
What to expect from a counselling session
This modality can take various different forms, ranging from phone or online counselling and one-on-one private counselling in person, to relationship counselling which may involve you and your partner speaking to a practitioner. Sometimes, a counselling session intended to support people suffering from addiction, recovering from abuse or coping with serious illness may be held in a group setting.
It is natural to be nervous during your first counselling session, so most practitioners will take care to make you feel safe and respected, and reassure you that counselling is a non-confrontational and non-judgemental process. Your counsellor will ask you about the concern that has prompted you to seek help, and what you might wish to gain from counselling.
A counsellor is trained to listen actively and with empathy, and will know what questions to ask in order to help you unlock clarity and understanding about situations for which you might have been unable to find solutions by yourself. Your counsellor may also set you ‘homework’ tasks or advise you on what steps you can take in daily life to help you achieve your goals.
Please consult your medical professional before you commence counselling, as they may be able to advise you about the most suitable practitioner for your needs. You do not need a referral to speak with a counsellor, but in Australia, Medicare rebates for counselling services may be available in some circumstances. If you have any concerns at all about the process, also speak to your counsellor. Good rapport is very important, so if you don’t feel like you are obtaining the benefits you had hoped for, you are under no obligation to continue receiving counselling from a particular practitioner.