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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The temptation to fix their big feelings can be seismic. Often this is connected to needing to ease our own discomfort at their discomfort, which is so very normal.

Big feelings in them are meant to raise (sometimes big) feelings in us. This is all a healthy part of the attachment system. It happens to mobilise us to respond to their distress, or to protect them if their distress is in response to danger.

Emotion is energy in motion. We don’t want to bury it, stop it, smother it, and we don’t need to fix it. What we need to do is make a safe passage for it to move through them. 

Think of emotion like a river. Our job is to hold the ground strong and steady at the banks so the river can move safely, without bursting the banks.

However hard that river is racing, they need to know we can be with the river (the emotion), be with them, and handle it. This might feel or look like you aren’t doing anything, but actually it’s everything.

The safety that comes from you being the strong, steady presence that can lovingly contain their big feelings will let the emotional energy move through them and bring the brain back to calm.

Eventually, when they have lots of experience of us doing this with them, they will learn to do it for themselves, but that will take time and experience. The experience happens every time you hold them steady through their feelings. 

This doesn’t mean ignoring big behaviour. For them, this can feel too much like bursting through the banks, which won’t feel safe. Sometimes you might need to recall the boundary and let them know where the edges are, while at the same time letting them see that you can handle the big of the feeling. Its about loving and leading all at once. ‘It’s okay to be angry. It’s not okay to use those words at me.’

Ultimately, big feelings are a call for support. Sometimes support looks like breathing and being with. Sometimes it looks like showing them you can hold the boundary, even when they feel like they’re about to burst through it. And if they’re using spicy words to get us to back off, it might look like respecting their need for space but staying in reaching distance, ‘Ok, I’m right here whenever you need.’♥️
We all need certain things to feel safe enough to put ourselves into the world. Kids with anxiety have magic in them, every one of them, but until they have a felt sense of safety, it will often stay hidden.

‘Safety’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, but about what they feel. At school, they might have the safest, most loving teacher in the safest, most loving school. This doesn’t mean they will feel enough relational safety straight away that will make it easier for them to do hard things. They can still do those hard things, but those things are going to feel bigger for a while. This is where they’ll need us and their other anchor adult to be patient, gentle, and persistent.

Children aren’t meant to feel safe with and take the lead from every adult. It’s not the adult’s role that makes the difference, but their relationship with the child.

Children are no different to us. Just because an adult tells them they’ll be okay, it doesn’t mean they’ll feel it or believe it. What they need is to be given time to actually experience the person as being safe, supportive and ready to catch them.

Relationship is key. The need for safety through relationship isn’t an ‘anxiety thing’. It’s a ‘human thing’. When we feel closer to the people around us, we can rise above the mountains in our way. When we feel someone really caring about us, we’re more likely to open up to their influence
and learn from them.

But we have to be patient. Even for teachers with big hearts and who undertand the importance of attachment relationships, it can take time.

Any adult at school can play an important part in helping a child feel safe – as long as that adult is loving, warm, and willing to do the work to connect with that child. It might be the librarian, the counsellor, the office person, a teacher aide. It doesn’t matter who, as long as it is someone who can be available for that child at dropoff or when feelings get big during the day and do little check-ins along the way.

A teacher, or any important adult can make a lasting difference by asking, ‘How do I build my relationship with this child so s/he trusts me when I say, ‘I’ve got you, and I know you can do this.’♥️
There is a beautiful ‘everythingness’ in all of us. The key to living well is being able to live flexibly and more deliberately between our edges.

So often though, the ‘shoulds’ and ‘should nots’ we inhale in childhood and as we grow, lead us to abandon some of those precious, needed parts of us. ‘Don’t be angry/ selfish/ shy/ rude. She’s not a maths person.’ ‘Don’t argue.’ Ugh.

Let’s make sure our children don’t cancel parts of themselves. They are everything, but not always all at once. They can be anxious and brave. Strong and soft. Angry and calm. Big and small. Generous and self-ish. Some things they will find hard, and they can do hard things. None of these are wrong ways to be. What trips us up is rigidity, and only ever responding from one side of who we can be.

We all have extremes or parts we favour. This is what makes up the beautiful, complex, individuality of us. We don’t need to change this, but the more we can open our children to the possibility in them, the more options they will have in responding to challenges, the everyday, people, and the world. 

We can do this by validating their ‘is’ without needing them to be different for a while in the moment, and also speaking to the other parts of them when we can. 

‘Yes maths is hard, and I know you can do hard things. How can I help?’

‘I can see how anxious you feel. That’s so okay. I also know you have brave in you.’

‘I love your ‘big’ and the way you make us laugh. You light up the room.’ And then at other times: ‘It can be hard being in a room with new people can’t it. It’s okay to be quiet. I could see you taking it all in.’

‘It’s okay to want space from people. Sometimes you just want your things and yourself for yourself, hey. I feel like that sometimes too. I love the way you know when you need this.’ And then at other times, ‘You looked like you loved being with your friends today. I loved watching you share.’

The are everything, but not all at once. Our job is to help them live flexibly and more deliberately between the full range of who they are and who they can be: anxious/brave; kind/self-ish; focussed inward/outward; angry/calm. This will take time, and there is no hurry.♥️
For our kids and teens, the new year will bring new adults into their orbit. With this, comes new opportunities to be brave and grow their courage - but it will also bring anxiety. For some kiddos, this anxiety will feel so big, but we can help them feel bigger.

The antidote to a felt sense of threat is a felt sense of safety. As long as they are actually safe, we can facilitate this by nurturing their relationship with the important adults who will be caring for them, whether that’s a co-parent, a stepparent, a teacher, a coach. 

There are a number of ways we can facilitate this:

- Use the name of their other adult (such as a teacher) regularly, and let it sound loving and playful on your voice.
- Let them see that you have an open, willing heart in relation to the other adult.
- Show them you trust the other adult to care for them (‘I know Mrs Smith is going to take such good care of you.’)
- Facilitate familiarity. As much as you can, hand your child to the same person when you drop them off.

It’s about helping expand their village of loving adults. The wider this village, the bigger their world in which they can feel brave enough. 

For centuries before us, it was the village that raised children. Parenting was never meant to be done by one or two adults on their own, yet our modern world means that this is how it is for so many of us. 

We can bring the village back though - and we must - by helping our kiddos feel safe, known, and held by the adults around them. We need this for each other too.

The need for safety through relationship isn’t an ‘anxiety thing’. It’s a ‘human thing’. When we feel closer to the people around us, we can rise above the mountains that block our way.♥️

That power of felt safety matters for all relationships - parent and child; other adult and child; parent and other adult. It all matters. 

A teacher, or any important adult in the life of a child, can make a lasting difference by asking, ‘How do I build my relationship with this child (and their parent) so s/he trusts me when I say, ‘I’ve got you, I care about you, and I know you can do this.’♥️
Approval, independence, autonomy, are valid needs for all of us. When a need is hungry enough we will be driven to meet it however we can. For our children, this might look like turning away from us and towards others who might be more ready to meet the need, or just taking.

If they don’t feel they can rest in our love, leadership, approval, they will seek this more from peers. There is no problem with this, but we don’t want them solely reliant on peers for these. It can make them vulnerable to making bad decisions, so as not to lose the approval or ‘everythingness’ of those peers.

If we don’t give enough freedom, they might take that freedom through defiance, secrecy, the forbidden. If we control them, they might seek more to control others, or to let others make the decisions that should be theirs.

All kids will mess up, take risks, keep secrets, and do things that baffle us sometimes. What’s important is, ‘Do they turn to us when they need to, enough?’ The ‘turning to’ starts with trusting that we are interested in supporting all their needs, not just the ones that suit us. Of course this doesn’t mean we will meet every need. It means we’ve shown them that their needs are important to us too, even though sometimes ours will be bigger (such as our need to keep them safe).

They will learn safe and healthy ways to meet their needs, by first having them met by us. This doesn’t mean granting full independence, full freedom, and full approval. What it means is holding them safely while also letting them feel enough of our approval, our willingness to support their independence, freedom, autonomy, and be heard on things that matter to them.

There’s no clear line with this. Some days they’ll want independence. Some days they won’t. Some days they’ll seek our approval. Some days they won’t care for it at all, especially if it means compromising the approval of peers. The challenge for us is knowing when to hold them closer and when to give space, when to hold the boundary and when to release it a little, when to collide and when to step out of the way. If we watch and listen, they will show us. And just like them, we won’t need to get it right all the time.♥️

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