5 Ways to Make the Most of Your Counselling Journey

5 Ways to Make the Most of Your Counselling Journey

Attending counselling for the first time is challenging – no doubt about that. It’s scary, has the potential for us to feel embarrassed, and it’s normal to have a deep-seated fear of what unchained beast may be lurking beneath the thin veil of our personal façade, even as we know it. We have a fear of being judged and of Pandora’s box – what might come out and can we put it back in again!

So here you are about to pick up the phone, you have wrestled with yourself incessantly looking for excuses not to call. ‘I don’t really need it..’, ‘it’s not that bad’, ‘I’ll be ok..’ , ‘The problem is with them, not me!”. Ultimately you have come to this point, terrified but determined to feel better, even if to prove them wrong. Here are just a few things to remember so that you not only get the most out of what you pay for, but what you learn, discern, establish, redesign, forfeit, reshape, plant, stir-up, grow in or otherwise explore to be truth.

Take the First Step

Many clients that attend counselling say that making that first phone call is one of the hardest steps along with finding the courage to turn up. However, once they have flung themselves over the threshold and into sessions they report feeling relieved, invigorated and ultimately pleased they made the decision to get the ball rolling. 

‘Sometimes we simply need to have a little faith and step out of the boat..’

Be Honest

Honesty seems like a simple thing, but if we really drill down it can be harder than we think. Not to imply that we set out to deliberately deceive but part of the counselling experience is learning to unveil those parts of ourselves that we have hidden under a number of guises, sometimes for many, many years. We tell ourselves that cause and affect were different from what they actually were, we seek to either allay blame or to take blame unto ourselves where none is warranted or we simply deny everything in the hopes it will go away. Healing in this counsellor’s opinion takes place first in transparency, honesty first with ourselves and then with others. But why do we do this, why not be

Healing in this counsellor’s opinion takes place first in transparency, honesty first with ourselves and then with others. But why do we do this, why not be real about things as they are? In truth there is transparency and in transparency truth, fear becomes our biggest roadblock to healing. We ask inevitably ‘Who am I?’ and ‘What if I don’t like whom I’ve become?’ ‘What happened to the strong person I used to be?’. That strong person has just become stronger simply in finding the strength to ask the question. Life happens and often happens in ways that are neither pretty nor comfortable but that’s ok because nothing grows in a vacuum. Likewise nothing picks itself up without at first falling down. Facing up to these things is overwhelming and often all too real as we question what others will think and what we will think of ourselves, instead I would challenge you to embrace the window that effective therapy can provide. A chance to look in and look through to what is inside and what we face next. After all, it is just that, simply a glimpse into those things that are within, it is totally up to you if you choose to open it.

‘In truth there is transparency and in transparency truth..’

Perseverance and Patience

Good therapy is often painful, no one likes to think it, certainly no one likes to advertise it but simple truths are important. The harsh reality is when we start to strip away what has made us comfortable, even though it may no longer serve us that cleaving sometimes brings pain. Likened if you like to commencing a new exercise regime we know it is doing us good but sometimes we have to do some hard yards to get to the final result. Perseverance and patience in the process is important in any personal transformation to make sure we get to the end of the race. We easily get disheartened if we dig deeper than we thought and un- mask unknown demons we spent years carefully locking in a little box, that was then chained, wrapped in barbed wire, placed in another box, locked in a cabinet, thrown in our own shark-infested lake with a sign on the bank saying beware of the bear! But nonetheless this well-meaning therapist has encouraged us to go diving with an oxy torch and a large crucifix to retrieve it.

‘Perseverance, patience and trusting the process will get us across the line eventually until bears become teddies, sharks become minnows and demons become saints that have made us stronger, more resilient, more loving and embracing of life and those around us.’

Do Your Homework

Good therapy finds ways to empower us and that often means practice, making an effort to change our thinking patterns and knee-jerk reactions. This might be anything from more exercise (groan..) through to entering challenging environments, picking up old hobbies or even writing a letter. Sounds a little too much like school I know, no-one likes having to work on their own time but the simple fact of the matter is those that progress are the one’s that do their homework.

The good news is this particular assignment yields lasting benefits that take us beyond who and where we are into something new, an inspired freedom that we had forgotten was even possible – until now.

Self Care, Self Care, Self Care

I said it three times just in case you missed it. Good self-nurturing practices not only maximise your chances of success but set you up to prosper in the future, heal exponentially and embrace a life of emotional and Spiritual abundance as it is meant to be. Self care can be almost anything that is beneficial and is a uniquely personal part of knowing what you need to heal and grow. People people need socialisation and empathic and introverted people often need alone time. Ultimately its about finding something that feeds you emotionally from exercise to art and music to mountain climbing. One last thing is to revisit that Spiritual outlet simply because wholeness doesn’t take place without it.


About the Author – Andrew Jewell, Wedgetail Ministries

Andrew is a Writer, Counsellor and Christian Motivational Speaker and is the founder of Wedgetail Ministries. Andrew writes articles and reflections to uplift and encourage people Spiritually and Emotionally in achieving Wedgetail’s Mission. – ‘ To lift the fallen, to heal the broken, to bring light into the very darkest reaches of humanity.. To be the very definition of Grace, that is our collective purpose.’ Andrew Jewell.

You can find out more about Andrew on his website, wedgetailministries.com,  Facebook, Twitter, Medium, and Google+. Andrew can be contacted through email on .

3 Comments

Calvin Black

Andrew,
Thanks for this article on taking that first step. I think you hit on something important in addressing our hesitancy to take that first step and talk to someone. As a counsellor, I see many clients coming after months of considering what they should do about their problems. I hope your article will encourage some to find the help they need and be honest about their challenges.

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Jayna Coppedge

It is important to know what your goal is so that when you reach that goal you can stop the counseling. Here are the goals I have had on separate counseling events: I need to stop trying to change him and accept him. I need a reality check- are the people at work crazy or am I? I need some tools to deal with stress so that body doesn’t suffer. I want to stop using food as the way I meet my emotional needs. After seeing a therapist and diligently doing the painful work, I was able to quit after 6 weeks-14 weeks knowing that if I needed a “booster” I could return as needed. Each time I regained perspective, confidence, hope, joy, and my relationships improved.

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Behaviour is never from ‘bad’. It’s from ‘big’. Big hungry, big tired, big disconnection, big missing, big ‘too much right now’. The reason our responses might not work can often be because we’ve misread the story, or we’ve missed an important piece of it. Their story might be about now, today, yesterday, or any of the yesterdays before now. 

Our job isn’t to fix them. They aren’t broken. Our job is to understand them. Only then can we steer our response in the right direction. Otherwise we’re throwing darts at the wrong target - behaviour, instead of the need behind the behaviour. 

Watch, listen, breathe and be with. Feel what they feel. This will help them feel you with them. We all feel safer and calmer when we feel our people beside us - not judging or hurrying or questioning. What don’t you know, that they need you to know?♥️
We all have first up needs. The difference between adults and children is that we can delay the meeting of these needs for a bit longer than children - but we still need them met. 

The first most important question the brain needs answered is, ‘Is my body safe?’ - Am I free from threat, hunger, exhaustion, pain? This is usually an easier one to take care of or to recognise when it might need some attention. 

The next most important question is, ‘Is my heart safe?’ - Am I loved, noticed, valued, claimed, wanted, welcome? This can be an easy one to overlook, especially in the chaos of the morning. Of course we love them and want them - and sometimes we’ll get distracted, annoyed, frustrated, irritated. None of this changes how much we love and want them - not even for a second. We can feel two things at once - madly in love with them and annoyed/ distracted/ frustrated. Sometimes though, this can leave their ‘Is my heart safe?’ needs a little hungry. They have less capacity than us to delay the meeting of these needs. When these needs are hungry, we’ll be more likely to see big feelings or big behaviour. 

The more you can fill their love tanks at the start of the day, the more they’ll be able to handle the bumps. This doesn’t have to be big. It just has to be enough. It might look like having a cuddle, reading a story, having a chat, sitting with them while they have breakfast or while they pat the dog, touching their back when they walk past, telling them you love them.

All brains need to feel loved and wanted, and as though they aren’t a nuisance, but sometimes they’ll need to feel it more. The more their felt sense of relational safety is met, the more they’ll be able to then focus on ‘thinking brain’ things, such as planning, making good decisions, co-operating, behaving. 

(And if this today was a bumpy one, that’s okay. Those days are going to happen. If most of the time their love tanks are full, they’ll handle when it drops a little. Just top it up when you can. And don’t forget to top yours up too. Be kind to yourself. You deserve it as much as they do.)♥️
Things will always go wrong - a bad decision, a good decision with a bad outcome, a dilemma, wanting something that comes with risk. 

Often, the ‘right thing’ lives somewhere in the very blurry bounds of the grey. Sometimes it will be about what’s right for them. Sometimes what’s right for others. Sometimes it will be about taking a risk, and sometimes the ‘right’ thing just feels wrong right now, or wrong for them. Even as adults, we will often get things wrong. This isn’t because we’re bad, or because we don’t know the right thing from the wrong thing, but because few things are black and white. 

The problem with punishment and harsh consequences is that we remove ourselves as an option for them to turn to next time things end messy, or as a guide before the mess happens. 

Feeling safe in our important relationships is a primary need for all of us humans. That means making sure our relationships are free from judgement, humiliation, shame, separation. If our response to their ‘wrong things’ is to bring all of these things to the table we share with them with them, of course they’ll do anything to avoid it. This isn’t about lying or secrecy. It’s about maintaining relational ‘safety’, or closeness.

Kids want to do the right thing. They want us to love and accept them. But they’re going to get things wrong sometimes. When they do, our response will teach them either that we are safe for them to come to no matter what, or that we aren’t. 

So what do we do when things go wrong? Embrace them, reject the behaviour:

‘I love that you’ve been honest with me. That means everything to me. I know you didn’t expect things to end up like this, but here we are. Let’s talk about what’s happened and what can be different next time.’

Or, ‘Something must have made this (wrong thing) feel like the right thing to do, otherwise you wouldn’t have done it. We all do that sometimes. What do you think it was that was for you?’

Or, ‘I know you know lying isn’t okay. What made you feel like you couldn’t tell me the truth? How can we build the trust again. Let’s talk about how to do that.’

You will always be their greatest guide, but you can only be that if they let you.♥️
Whenever there is a call to courage, there will be anxiety - every time. That’s what makes it brave. This is why challenging things, brave things, important things will often drive anxiety. 

At these times - when they are safe, but doing something hard - the feelings that come with anxiety will be enough to drive avoidance. When it is avoidance of a threat, that’s important. That’s anxiety doing it’s job. But when the avoidance is in response to things that are important, brave, meaningful, that avoidance only serves to confirm the deficiency story. This is when we want to support them to take tiny steps towards that brave thing. It doesn’t have to happen all at once.l and it doesn’t matter how long it takes. Brave is about being able to handle the discomfort of anxiety enough to do the important, challenging thing. It’s built in tiny steps, one after the other. 

We don’t have to get rid of their anxiety and neither do they. They can feel anxious, and do brave. At these times (safe, but scary) they need us to take a posture of validation and confidence. ‘I believe you, and I believe in you.’ ‘I know this feels big, and I know you can handle it.’ 

What we’re saying is we know they can handle the discomfort of anxiety. They don’t have to handle it well, and they don’t have to handle it for too long. Handling it is handling it, and that’s the substance of ‘brave’. 

Being brave isn’t about doing the brave thing, but about being able to handle the discomfort of the anxiety that comes with that. And if they’ve done that today, at all, or for a moment longer than yesterday, then they’ve been brave today. It doesn’t matter how messy it was or how small it was. Let them see their brave through your eyes.‘That was big for you wasn’t it. And you did it. You felt anxious, and you stayed with it. That’s what being brave is all about.’♥️
A relationally unsafe (emotionally unsafe) environment can cause as much breakage as as a physically unsafe one. 

The brain’s priority will always be safety, so if a person or environment doesn’t feel emotionally safe, we might see big behaviour, avoidance, or reduced learning. In this case, it isn’t the child that’s broken. It’s the environment.

But here’s the thing, just because a child doesn’t feel safe, doesn’t mean the person or environment isn’t safe. What it means is that there aren’t enough signals of safety - yet, and there’s a little more work to do to build this. ‘Safety’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, it’s about what the brain perceives. Children might have the safest, warmest, most loving adult in front of them, but that doesn’t mean they’ll feel safe. This is when we have to look at how we might extend bigger cues of warmth, welcome, inclusiveness, and what we can do (or what roles or responsibilities can we give them) to help them feel valued and needed. This might take time, and that’s okay. Children aren’t meant to feel safe with every adult in front of them, so sometimes what they need most is our patience and understanding as we continue to build this. 

This is the way it works for all of us, everywhere. None of us will be able to give our best or do our best if we don’t feel welcome, liked, valued, and free from hostility, humiliation or judgement. 

This is especially important for our schools. A brain that doesn’t feel safe can’t learn. For schools to be places of learning, they first have to be places of relationship. Before we focus too sharply on learning support and behaviour management, we first have to focus on felt sense of safety support. The most powerful way to do this is through relationship. Teachers who do this are magic-makers. They show a phenomenal capacity to expand a child’s capacity to learn, calm big behaviour, and open up a child’s world. But relationships take time, and felt safety takes time. The time it takes for this to happen is all part of the process. It’s not a waste of time, it’s the most important use of it.♥️

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