Counselling: the myths and benefits


Counsellors are trained in active listening, listening with deliberate intention. Photo: Getty images

Do you ever find yourself feeling sad, anxious or confused? Perhaps a big life event such as the death of a loved one or a newly diagnosed illness has left you with unanswered questions. Maybe you’re at a career crossroads and feel unsure about which direction to take. Or maybe a family breakdown or a relocation away from loved ones has left you feeling lonely? These are just some of the reasons people seek counselling.

Counselling at its core is a safe, confidential and non-judgemental space where clients talk to a trained professional about any emotional difficulties they may be experiencing. The counsellor will work with the client to help them understand the cause and nature of their dis-ease and often through the objective interventions of the counsellor, the client gains clarity, understanding, self-awareness and direction. Counselling is completely confidential and often clients will share things with their counsellor that they have never shared with anybody. It can sometimes feel daunting and scary at times but it is a safe space, built on mutual respect and as the relationship between counsellor and client develops, so too does the trust.

This describes a little of what counselling is, but sometimes it can be easier to understand it in terms of what it is not. Counselling is not advice giving; a good counsellor will not tell you what you should be doing, instead they will work collaboratively with you, facilitate discussions and reframe thoughts and idea so that eventually, you are able to navigate your way through any challenges yourself. Counselling is not a chat with a friend; it is a professional and unique relationship where your needs come first, where you are the centre of your own story, where a completely objective individual, with no agenda at hand, can support you to make better decisions and to help you understand yourself.

Let’s de-bunk some myths:

“I have to have a diagnosed mental health condition, or have something really bad happen to me to have counselling”

Counselling is used to treat a broad range of issues. Clients may want to see a counsellor because they are feeling depressed or anxious, they may want to understand more about themselves and their relationship patterns; clients may access support for addiction or an eating disorder, they may want to try and process a childhood trauma; clients can feel lonely or experience workplace bullying...the list is endless and there is no hierarchy of suffering, no issue too big or too small for counselling to be useful.

Counsellors just listen, what’s the benefit in that?

It’s true that counsellors are trained in active listening - that is, listening with deliberate intention, listening to hear, not to respond. But it’s an active process, not passive. Counsellors will offer different ways of thinking about a problem, they will notice things about your behaviours, your feelings, your relationships that may be in your blind spot and they will gently challenge you and encourage curiosity. Counsellors can offer strategies and techniques for managing difficult feelings. Counsellors use a range of different theories, models and techniques, they will help you set goals and some can provide education around things like trauma responses, they may use techniques such as mindfulness, visualisation or breathwork, but counselling is not just listening.

“Counselling is for the weak minded, I should be able to cope with things on my own”

If you had a broken leg, would you think yourself “weak” for going to the hospital for treatment? If you wanted to get fit, would you think yourself “weak” for going to the gym and seeking the expertise of the personal trainers there? If you needed to rewire your home, would it be “weak” to call an electrician?

It is not weakness to seek support when we are feeling ill-equipped or under resourced to help ourselves. Seeking support is a sign of strength – it takes courage to ask for help and great resilience to confront difficult feelings. There is no strength in suffering, just pain.

Counselling truly does help transform lives.

Jodie Dilliway is a counsellor and psychotherapist (BACP Accred) at Piece of Mind Counselling and Psychotherapy, 07931 924 617,,

Instagram: pieceofmindlondon

Facebook: Jodie Dilliway Piece of Mind Counselling

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