A Beginner’s Guide to Counselling and Therapy

What should I talk about?

The short answer to this, is of course, is that you can talk about anything you like. Absolutely anything at all. This is the joy of the therapeutic relationship: the counsellor is there to think about you whilst you are there to think about…, well, you. We work together to explore what’s going on for you in the moment. And all that time is dedicated to, guess who? Yup,you.

You won’t get this very often in any other relationship in your adult life, so you may as well make the most of it. Talk about your boss, your neighbor or your partner. You can talk about your fears, stresses, struggles or your family. You can talk about whatever it is – and I mean whatever – that is taking up your attention right now. It might be a specific problem – usually this is why you have come to counselling in the first place – but it might just be something that is sitting at the front of your mind and you don’t really know what to do with it. So how about you let someone else help you to make sense of things.

Now if all that doesn’t sound great enough, here’s the really good bit: you don’t need to worry about what to talk about because it’s not your job to make sure the sessions are therapeutic.  It’s my job, as your therapist, to keep an eye on the therapeutic process and make sure that the content is dealt with in a therapeutic way. So don’t be surprised if you talk about some struggle and I decide to ‘explore things further’ and wonder whether this has anything to do with your family system …which might have something to do with the feelings that are coming up for you…which just might be related to how you experience yourself in the world and in relation to other people. Get the picture?

So once you have realized that you are not in charge of making this counselling thing work, and have no doubt breathed a heavy sigh of relief, you might ask yourself ‘Is there anything that I really ought to talk about?’ This is a definite yes: you ought to talk about things that trouble and concern you, things that you feel hold you back or don’t like about yourself and things that you feel scared of talking to people about. As your counselor, I am the person who won’t judge you, shame you or make you feel inadequate for having these feelings. Chances are, they all make sense given your story.

With all that said it is important to understand that although you are not responsible for maintaining the therapeutic process, it’s really important to recognize that it is not my job to fix everything, find your solutions for you or take responsibility for you feeling better about things. All of that is still yours I’m afraid, lovely as it would be to have someone in our life who was responsible for making everything better.

At some point in the first couple of sessions I may just say ‘I’m not going to give you advice or fix things for you’ and you will probably think ‘so what exactly is it that I’m paying you for?’ And the answer is that I’m here to make sure the conversation is a therapeutic one and not just the kind of chat you might have down at the pub with your friends. So if ever counselling does start to feel like the kind of chat you would have with your friends then feel free to ask me how I think the therapy is progressing.

After all, you can talk about anything you like.

Three Steps to Forgiveness

The process of forgiveness essentially consists of three steps that lead us from our ego back to love and our higher self.

Most of us grew up believing that you forgave by overlooking something that we believe actually happened and by doing so we would see the error that someone has made and attempt to overlook and forget about it.

 

When in fact we need to recognize that it is our thoughts about the situation that we need to forgive. What we made up about ourselves because of it.

You see we give everything the meaning it has for us, and therefore it is our interpretation of any situation that needs to be forgiven. So, it’s all about having ‘a little willingness’ to look at our unconscious, limiting thoughts, feelings and beliefs in order to release them.

If it’s true that “We are all Spiritual beings having a Human experience”, then whatever happened or happens to us in our lives on a form level can’t actually hurt us in anyway. It’s not to say that the behavior or event didn’t happen, but what we believed about ourselves as a result of it did not. Our true self, our spirit, was never hurt or damaged or wounded in any way.

“Well that’s all fine and great!” you say, “But how?”

Step 1

The first step entails the recognition that what we have attacked and judged against in another is what we have condemned in ourselves. That means we need to take a nice big bite of humble pie. Not an easy thing to do for sure.

You see the ego’s job is to divert our attention away from ourselves and, by convincing us that it is not inside us, we devote our attention to correcting the problem where it is not. All projection has this as its aim: to be a distraction or smokescreen so that we may never look within to where the problem truly is. What the ego does not reveal, of course, is that beyond this smokescreen lays our connection to our higher self, which is always with us. While this step does not resolve the problem, it at least leads us closer to its resolution.

Step 2

The second step entails our understanding that what we made up about ourselves, too, represents a decision, and one that can now be changed. It comes from a mistaken belief about who we are, and correction is the key to our healing. This shift is not something we can do by ourselves, but it must be something we want. Choice is our most powerful tool.

As long as we continue to believe that there is something inherently wrong with us, experiencing love becomes impossible. There is no way we can hold to this ego view of ourselves and at the same time feel loving and connected to our higher self. Love must then wait behind the veils of guilt and hate, just as peace cannot be experienced where there is fear and conflict.

Step 3

If we’ve actually accomplished both steps 1 and 2 then the door to step 3 naturally opens. Letting Love in is quite possibly one of the most terrifying steps for most.  It means we must release all control and surrender completely to it.

The fact remains that if we could undo all the negative beliefs we held about ourselves we wouldn’t need to forgive. We would know that we are whole and complete no matter what. So we learn to forgive rather than condemn, and to see that nothing has been done to us because we, in fact, have done this to ourselves. We realize that we are not the victims of the world we, but rather of ourselves, and that we now can look at this differently.

In the fist step we forgive the other, the second we forgive ourselves, which then opens the way for our anger and guilt to be replaced by Love, the final step in forgiveness.

Craig Wanless, RPC