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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Anxiety is a sign that the brain has registered threat and is mobilising the body to get to safety. One of the ways it does this is by organising the body for movement - to fight the danger or flee the danger. 

If there is no need or no opportunity for movement, that fight or flight fuel will still be looking for expression. This can come out as wriggly, fidgety, hyperactive behaviour. This is why any of us might pace or struggle to sit still when we’re anxious. 

If kids or teens are bouncing around, wriggling in their chairs, or having trouble sitting still, it could be anxiety. Remember with anxiety, it’s not about what is actually safe but about what the brain perceives. New or challenging work, doing something unfamiliar, too much going on, a tired or hungry body, anything that comes with any chance of judgement, failure, humiliation can all throw the brain into fight or flight.

When this happens, the body might feel busy, activated, restless. This in itself can drive even more anxiety in kids or teens. Any of us can struggle when we don’t feel comfortable in our own bodies. 

Anxiety is energy with nowhere to go. To move through anxiety, give the energy somewhere to go - a fast walk, a run, a whole-body shake, hula hooping, kicking a ball - any movement that spends the energy will help bring the brain and body back to calm.♥️
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#parenting #anxietyinkids #childanxiety #parenting #parent
This is not bad behaviour. It’s big behaviour a from a brain that has registered threat and is working hard to feel safe again. 

‘Threat’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, but about what the brain perceives. The brain can perceive threat when there is any chance missing out on or messing up something important, anything that feels unfamiliar, hard, or challenging, feeling misunderstood, thinking you might be angry or disappointed with them, being separated from you, being hungry or tired, anything that pushes against their sensory needs - so many things. 

During anxiety, the amygdala in the brain is switched to high volume, so other big feelings will be too. This might look like tears, sadness, or anger. 

Big feelings have a good reason for being there. The amygdala has the very important job of keeping us safe, and it does this beautifully, but not always with grace. One of the ways the amygdala keeps us safe is by calling on big feelings to recruit social support. When big feelings happen, people notice. They might not always notice the way we want to be noticed, but we are noticed. This increases our chances of safety. 

Of course, kids and teens still need our guidance and leadership and the conversations that grow them, but not during the emotional storm. They just won’t hear you anyway because their brain is too busy trying to get back to safety. In that moment, they don’t want to be fixed or ‘grown’. They want to feel seen, safe and heard. 

During the storm, preserve your connection with them as much as you can. You might not always be able to do this, and that’s okay. None of this is about perfection. If you have a rupture, repair it as soon as you can. Then, when their brains and bodies come back to calm, this is the time for the conversations that will grow them. 

Rather than, ‘What consequences do they need to do better?’, shift to, ‘What support do they need to do better?’ The greatest support will come from you in a way they can receive: ‘What happened?’ ‘What can you do differently next time?’ ‘You’re the most wonderful kid and I know you didn’t want this to happen. How can you put things right? Do you need my help with that?’♥️
Big behaviour is a sign of a nervous system in distress. Before anything, that vulnerable nervous system needs to be brought back home to felt safety. 

This will happen most powerfully with relationship and connection. Breathe and be with. Let them know you get it. This can happen with words or nonverbals. It’s about feeling what they feel, but staying regulated.

If they want space, give them space but stay in emotional proximity, ‘Ok I’m just going to stay over here. I’m right here if you need.’

If they’re using spicy words to make sure there is no confusion about how they feel about you right now, flag the behaviour, then make your intent clear, ‘I know how upset you are and I want to understand more about what’s happening for you. I’m not going to do this while you’re speaking to me like this. You can still be mad, but you need to be respectful. I’m here for you.’

Think of how you would respond if a friend was telling you about something that upset her. You wouldn’t tell her to calm down, or try to fix her (she’s not broken), or talk to her about her behaviour. You would just be there. You would ‘drop an anchor’ and steady those rough seas around her until she feels okay enough again. Along the way you would be doing things that let her know your intent to support her. You’d do this with you facial expressions, your voice, your body, your posture. You’d feel her feels, and she’d feel you ‘getting her’. It’s about letting her know that you understand what she’s feeling, even if you don’t understand why (or agree with why). 

It’s the same for our children. As their important big people, they also need leadership. The time for this is after the storm has passed, when their brains and bodies feel safe and calm. Because of your relationship, connection and their felt sense of safety, you will have access to their ‘thinking brain’. This is the time for those meaningful conversations: 
- ‘What happened?’
- ‘What did I do that helped/ didn’t help?’
- ‘What can you do differently next time?’
- ‘You’re a great kid and I know you didn’t want this to happen, but here we are. What can you do to put things right? Do you need my help with that?’♥️
As children grow, and especially by adolescence, we have the illusion of control but whether or not we have any real influence will be up to them. The temptation to control our children will always come from a place of love. Fear will likely have a heavy hand in there too. When they fall, we’ll feel it. Sometimes it will feel like an ache in our core. Sometimes it will feel like failure or guilt, or anger. We might wish we could have stopped them, pushed a little harder, warned a little bigger, stood a little closer. We’re parents and we’re human and it’s what this parenting thing does. It makes fear and anxiety billow around us like lost smoke, too easily.

Remember, they want you to be proud of them, and they want to do the right thing. When they feel your curiosity over judgement, and the safety of you over shame, it will be easier for them to open up to you. Nobody will guide them better than you because nobody will care more about where they land. They know this, but the magic happens when they also know that you are safe and that you will hold them, their needs, their opinions and feelings with strong, gentle, loving hands, no matter what.♥️
Anger is the ‘fight’ part of the fight or flight response. It has important work to do. Anger never exists on its own. It exists to hold other more vulnerable emotions in a way that feels safer. It’s sometimes feels easier, safer, more acceptable, stronger to feel the ‘big’ that comes with anger, than the vulnerability that comes with anxiety, sadness, loneliness. This isn’t deliberate. It’s just another way our bodies and brains try to keep us safe. 

The problem isn’t the anger. The problem is the behaviour that can come with the anger. Let there be no limits on thoughts and feelings, only behaviour. When children are angry, as long as they are safe and others are safe, we don’t need to fix their anger. They aren’t broken. Instead, drop the anchor: as much as you can - and this won’t always be easy - be a calm, steadying, loving presence to help bring their nervous systems back home to calm. 

Then, when they are truly calm, and with love and leadership, have the conversations that will grow them - 
- What happened? 
- What can you do differently next time?
- You’re a really great kid. I know you didn’t want this to happen but here we are. How can you make things right. Would you like some ideas? Do you need some help with that?
- What did I do that helped? What did I do that didn’t help? Is there something that might feel more helpful next time?

When their behaviour falls short of ‘adorable’, rather than asking ‘What consequences they need to do better?’ let the question be, ‘What support do they need to do better.’ Often, the biggest support will be a conversation with you, and that will be enough.♥️
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#parenting #positiveparenting #mindfulparenting #anxietyinkids

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