Could it be that you’re holding back from going to therapy because of worries that you will upset your counsellor?
Rest assured, your concerns are unfounded.
Counsellors see a variety of clients with problems ranging from mild to severe. In this line of work, we often hear stories many people would find troubling.
However, counsellors are well prepared and more than capable of bearing the burden.
Consider how both their natural abilities and professional training prepare them for their profession.
Counsellors and empathy
Counsellors, especially the good ones, have a natural inclination towards empathy. They naturally want to hear your story and offer support. Many counsellors may well have been the person everyone went to for advice as they were growing up.
Counsellors are empathetic, rather than sympathetic. It’s important to recognise that empathy and sympathy are very different. How so?
Well, sympathy is when you don’t want someone to hurt or feel pain. That’s because sympathetic people are disturbed or upset because of your suffering. They don’t want you to feel pain because it upsets them. Whereas, an empathetic person allows you to contact and express your emotions freely. While they can connect with and understand your feelings, they don’t get wrapped up in those emotions themselves.
Another critical factor for counsellors is their professional training. Completing a course of study prepares counsellors with the academic knowledge they need. This education is vital when considering the importance of professionalism. Without this background, a counsellor would simply be a person hearing your story, which could make them more susceptible to becoming upset or feeling disturbed by what you have to say. Your counsellor’s training and experience enable them to establish a close working alliance while maintaining professional boundaries.
Of course, besides formal schooling, real-world experience is a very important part of a counsellor’s training. Clinical experience gained in a variety of settings allows counsellors to see a wide range of clients. This means that when a counsellor sees you, they already have a wealth of knowledge at their disposal. Thus, they can draw on this knowledge and experience to best help you.
Keeping things separate
If a counsellor didn’t have any of this background and heard your story (depending on the subject), they might feel embarrassed, uncomfortable or not know how to respond. If a friend or family member heard your story, they might feel that way too.
But that’s the advantage of seeing a counsellor! They are neither your friend nor a family member. So, they have less of an emotional connection to you. As a result, they can be more objective as they don’t have a vested interest or agenda.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that a counsellor is a robot, devoid of any emotions. Rather, they can use their innate qualities, professional training and experience to connect with you, while keeping themselves safe. Maintaining these boundaries helps with keeping an appropriate counsellor-client relationship.
Practising what they preach
Ideally, a good counsellor will also be someone who “practises what they preach.” Most counsellors will have engaged in mandatory personal therapy during their training. Many continue to have counselling, as and when, throughout their career, and beyond.
Their professional bodies require all counsellors to have regular supervision, with an experienced therapist, throughout their entire working life.
Both personal therapy and counselling supervision provide opportunities for your therapist to access the support they need to support you. Self-care is vital for us all, therapists included.
Finally, all counsellors must engage in continual professional development (CPD). This CPD keeps them fresh, as well as ensuring that they keep up to date with advances in the profession.
Be open about your concerns
Finally, if you are still worried that your story will upset your counsellor, talk with them about it. Be open with them about your worries and fears. You will discover they are highly receptive to what you have to say. They will appreciate your concerns and will work with you to address your concerns.
Obviously, being a counsellor isn’t always easy. Many clients do have difficult stories to tell. But that’s what counsellors have trained for: they are used to working with difficult stories. They also have access to the resources they need to help them help you.
It all starts with you having that first conversation. What are you waiting for?
Graphic by danthelibrarian (@pixabay.com) via needpix.com.