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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Big feelings, and the big behaviour that comes from big feelings, are a sign of a distressed nervous system. Think of this like a burning building. The behaviour is the smoke. The fire is a distressed nervous system. It’s so tempting to respond directly to the behaviour (the smoke), but by doing this, we ignore the fire. Their behaviour and feelings in that moment are a call for support - for us to help that distressed brain and body find the way home. 

The most powerful language for any nervous system is another nervous system. They will catch our distress (as we will catch theirs) but they will also catch our calm. It can be tempting to move them to independence on this too quickly, but it just doesn’t work this way. Children can only learn to self-regulate with lots (and lots and lots) of experience co-regulating. 

This isn’t something that can be taught. It’s something that has to be experienced over and over. It’s like so many things - driving a car, playing the piano - we can talk all we want about ‘how’ but it’s not until we ‘do’ over and over that we get better at it. 

Self-regulation works the same way. It’s not until children have repeated experiences with an adult bringing them back to calm, that they develop the neural pathways to come back to calm on their own. 

An important part of this is making sure we are guiding that nervous system with tender, gentle hands and a steady heart. This is where our own self-regulation becomes important. Our nervous systems speak to each other every moment of every day. When our children or teens are distressed, we will start to feel that distress. It becomes a loop. We feel what they feel, they feel what we feel. Our own capacity to self-regulate is the circuit breaker. 

This can be so tough, but it can happen in microbreaks. A few strong steady breaths can calm our own nervous system, which we can then use to calm theirs. Breathe, and be with. It’s that simple, but so tough to do some days. When they come back to calm, then have those transformational chats - What happened? What can make it easier next time?

Who you are in the moment will always be more important than what you do.
How we are with them, when they are their everyday selves and when they aren’t so adorable, will build their view of three things: the world, its people, and themselves. This will then inform how they respond to the world and how they build their very important space in it. 

Will it be a loving, warm, open-hearted space with lots of doors for them to throw open to the people and experiences that are right for them? Or will it be a space with solid, too high walls that close out too many of the people and experiences that would nourish them.

They will learn from what we do with them and to them, for better or worse. We don’t teach them that the world is safe for them to reach into - we show them. We don’t teach them to be kind, respectful, and compassionate. We show them. We don’t teach them that they matter, and that other people matter, and that their voices and their opinions matter. We show them. We don’t teach them that they are little joy mongers who light up the world. We show them. 

But we have to be radically kind with ourselves too. None of this is about perfection. Parenting is hard, and days will be hard, and on too many of those days we’ll be hard too. That’s okay. We’ll say things we shouldn’t say and do things we shouldn’t do. We’re human too. Let’s not put pressure on our kiddos to be perfect by pretending that we are. As long as we repair the ruptures as soon as we can, and bathe them in love and the warmth of us as much as we can, they will be okay.

This also isn’t about not having boundaries. We need to be the guardians of their world and show them where the edges are. But in the guarding of those boundaries we can be strong and loving, strong and gentle. We can love them, and redirect their behaviour.

It’s when we own our stuff(ups) and when we let them see us fall and rise with strength, integrity, and compassion, and when we hold them gently through the mess of it all, that they learn about humility, and vulnerability, and the importance of holding bruised hearts with tender hands. It’s not about perfection, it’s about consistency, and honesty, and the way we respond to them the most.♥️

#parenting #mindfulparenting
Anxiety and courage always exist together. It can be no other way. Anxiety is a call to courage. It means you're about to do something brave, so when there is one the other will be there too. Their courage might feel so small and be whisper quiet, but it will always be there and always ready to show up when they need it to.
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But courage doesn’t always feel like courage, and it won't always show itself as a readiness. Instead, it might show as a rising - from fear, from uncertainty, from anger. None of these mean an absence of courage. They are the making of space, and the opportunity for courage to rise.
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When the noise from anxiety is loud and obtuse, we’ll have to gently add our voices to usher their courage into the light. We can do this speaking of it and to it, and by shifting the focus from their anxiety to their brave. The one we focus on is ultimately what will become powerful. It will be the one we energise. Anxiety will already have their focus, so we’ll need to make sure their courage has ours.
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But we have to speak to their fear as well, in a way that makes space for it to be held and soothed, with strength. Their fear has an important job to do - to recruit the support of someone who can help them feel safe. Only when their fear has been heard will it rest and make way for their brave.
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What does this look like? Tell them their stories of brave, but acknowledge the fear that made it tough. Stories help them process their emotional experiences in a safe way. It brings word to the feelings and helps those big feelings make sense and find containment. ‘You were really worried about that exam weren’t you. You couldn’t get to sleep the night before. It was tough going to school but you got up, you got dressed, you ... and you did it. Then you ...’
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In the moment, speak to their brave by first acknowledging their need to flee (or fight), then tell them what you know to be true - ‘This feels scary for you doesn’t it. I know you want to run. It makes so much sense that you would want to do that. I also know you can do hard things. My darling, I know it with everything in me.’
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#positiveparenting #parenting #childanxiety #anxietyinchildren #mindfulpare
Separation anxiety has an important job to do - it’s designed to keep children safe by driving them to stay close to their important adults. Gosh it can feel brutal sometimes though.

Whenever there is separation from an attachment person there will be anxiety unless there are two things: attachment with another trusted, loving adult; and a felt sense of you holding on, even when you aren't beside them. Putting these in place will help soften anxiety.

As long as children are are in the loving care of a trusted adult, there's no need to avoid separation. We'll need to remind ourselves of this so we can hold on to ourselves when our own anxiety is rising in response to theirs. 

If separation is the problem, connection has to be the solution. The connection can be with any loving adult, but it's more than an adult being present. It needs an adult who, through their strong, warm, loving presence, shows the child their abundant intention to care for that child, and their joy in doing so. This can be helped along by showing that you trust the adult to love that child big in our absence. 'I know [important adult] loves you and is going to take such good care of you.'

To help your young one feel held on to by you, even in absence, let them know you'll be thinking of them and can't wait to see them. Bolster this by giving them something of yours to hold while you're gone - a scarf, a note - anything that will be felt as 'you'.

They know you are the one who makes sure their world is safe, so they’ll be looking to you for signs of safety: 'Do you think we'll be okay if we aren't together?' First, validate: 'You really want to stay with me, don't you. I wish I could stay with you too! It's hard being away from your special people isn't it.' Then, be their brave. Let it be big enough to wrap around them so they can rest in the safety and strength of it: 'I know you can do this, love. We can do hard things can't we.'

Part of growing up brave is learning that the presence of anxiety doesn't always mean something is wrong. Sometimes it means they are on the edge of brave - and being away from you for a while counts as brave.
Even the most loving, emotionally available adult might feel frustration, anger, helplessness or distress in response to a child’s big feelings. This is how it’s meant to work. 

Their distress (fight/flight) will raise distress in us. The purpose is to move us to protect or support or them, but of course it doesn’t always work this way. When their big feelings recruit ours it can drive us more to fight (anger, blame), or to flee (avoid, ignore, separate them from us) which can steal our capacity to support them. It will happen to all of us from time to time. 

Kids and teens can’t learn to manage big feelings on their own until they’ve done it plenty of times with a calm, loving adult. This is where co-regulation comes in. It helps build the vital neural pathways between big feelings and calm. They can’t build those pathways on their own. 

It’s like driving a car. We can tell them how to drive as much as we like, but ‘talking about’ won’t mean they’re ready to hit the road by themselves. Instead we sit with them in the front seat for hours, driving ‘with’ until they can do it on their own. Feelings are the same. We feel ‘with’, over and over, until they can do it on their own. 

What can help is pausing for a moment to see the behaviour for what it is - a call for support. It’s NOT bad behaviour or bad parenting. It’s not that.

Our own feelings can give us a clue to what our children are feeling. It’s a normal, healthy, adaptive way for them to share an emotional load they weren’t meant to carry on their own. Self-regulation makes space for us to hold those feelings with them until those big feelings ease. 

Self-regulation can happen in micro moments. First, see the feelings or behaviour for what it is - a call for support. Then breathe. This will calm your nervous system, so you can calm theirs. In the same way we will catch their distress, they will also catch ours - but they can also catch our calm. Breathe, validate, and be ‘with’. And you don’t need to do more than that.

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