|It can be natural phenomenon to go through changes or even rough patches in life, whether it's a relationship breakdown, sudden job loss, or perhaps a life transition like having a newborn baby or heading into retirement. Often times, people will seek out the advice or compassion of their loved ones, friends, or even their local hairdresser or doctor. Sometimes, it can be hard to talk to someone in your personal life about the concerns you're experiencing, and the thought of having professional support may arise in your thoughts.
Many individuals in this scenario might feel hesitant to reach out for professional forms of help because of a lack of knowledge of the kinds of support available, how to access a helping professional, and what actually happens during this process. Perhaps you have you wondered this yourself?
Before venturing into the process of self-discovery, it may be helpful to have a better understanding of the support that you're signing up for so that you have more knowledge of the benefits and outcomes of having support ahead of an appointment. Although there are many helping professions (check out the BCPA's post for more information about the difference between psychologists, psychiatrists, and counsellors) - for this blog post, let's consider the profession of clinical counselling*.
So what is clinical counselling? According to the British Columbia Association of Clinical Counsellors (BCACC):
"Counselling is a relational process based upon the ethical use of professional competencies to facilitate human thriving. A counsellor’s scope of practice is that use of recognized and evolving professional competencies."
So what does this actually mean? Let's break down this definition in bite-size pieces in order to fully understanding it's meaning.
'Counselling is a relational process' - this means that the process of counselling happens between two or more people. This is in stark contrast to the concept of 'self-help' which is the process of finding resources that help you to process or adjust to changes on your own. Just like any relationship, counselling can be a lot of give and take, and it can be important for the client in the counselling relationship to be ready to enter into this type of agreement.
'..based upon the ethical use of professional competencies' - just like any relationship, trust and honesty are crucial to the success of the therapeutic process. Counsellors are bound by ethical guidelines (these may be different in each region or country) which protect both the counsellor and the client from harm. As such, it's recommended to ensure that the counsellor has adequate training, professional designation (if available in their area), as well as indemnity or business insurance.
'..to facilitate human thriving' - as the definition of thrive reveals, counsellors work with clients to promote emotional growth within their clients and to work alongside them to succeed or prosper in the changes the client are is to make. It's important to point out that a counsellor provides non-judgmental support, rather than advice, and also believes that empowering a client to make changes within themselves is far more powerful than creating that change for the client.
'A counsellor's scope of practice is that use of recognized and evolving professional competencies' - this refers to the importance of a counsellor's responsibility to continue growing as helping professionals in order to support our clients with innovative and ethical therapeutic practices.
There are many different interventions or therapeutic frameworks that a counsellor may introduce during your sessions together. It's common practice for a counsellor to share more about their particular way of working during the first session, but it's also acceptable (and your right as a client) to inquire about this during the introductory phase of the therapeutic relationship.
In order to find out more about the counselling process and what to expect from the counsellor that you select, here are some helpful questions to ask:
Q. What type of therapy models or framework do you use during counselling sessions?
Q. When will I start feeling better?
Q. Can you tell me about your previous clinical training, education and experience?
Q. What are some of the benefits of having support from a counsellor? And the risks?
Q. How long does therapy take and what are the length of sessions?
Q. How will I know if the counselling relationship is working for me?
Asking for professional support can be difficult, especially if it's the first time you have thought about having help from someone outside your immediate support network. As a clinical counsellor, I believe that everyone deserves a safe space to share their concerns, thoughts, feelings, hopes, dreams and anything else that might be on their mind. Sometimes it's the first step that's the hardest, and, once the decision to have support is made, positive and lasting changes can be felt.
Thinking about starting counselling and still have some questions?
*Throughout this post, clinical counselling is referred to as counselling; clinical counsellors are referred to as counsellors.
*Some links on this page are embedded with affiliate links. Any revenue that I receive through affiliate marketing helps me to keep the rates charged to clients lower so that more individuals can access therapy at an affordable rate.