Opening up: Being an aspiring Counsellor

Hello! Thank you for having a look at my blog. Who am I? My name is Neroli Oakley and I’m an aspiring Counsellor – studying Counselling & Psychotherapy. I am 38 years old, married and have a young son who is nearly 6 years old.

I have spent 2012-13 studying for my Certificate in Counselling at Keele University, which has been challenging and eye opening, both personally and professionally.

An intriguing aspect of studying to be a counsellor has been the reactions of other people in my life.  Some people have reacted in very similar ways to those described by John Karter in On Training to be a therapist: there have been worried looks and mutterings about me constantly “analysing” individuals, there have been immediate jokes and heavily accented guffaws of “tell me about your mother”, there have even been negative defensive dismissals of counselling itself as nothing but charlatans leeching money of defensive victims. Everyone has their reasons for their reactions and a right to their opinion.

What I have found most interesting has been the number of people who have genuinely wanted to know what its all about and several have even requested advice as to whether they should seek the help of a counsellor. In fact the mere admission of what I am studying seems to have given people the green light to open up and talk, as if they had been merely waiting for such an opportunity. As a result I consider myself to be have been very lucky to have been trusted with peoples’ personal thoughts, albeit in some of the most unlikely and not really very suitable times and places.

This has led me to reflect that there are many people out there who would really like to talk to a counsellor, but that they are held back by lack of knowledge.

So what’s the point of Counselling?

The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) says “therapy offers you a safe, confidential place to talk about your life and anything that may be confusing, painful or uncomfortable”. I agree, and I’ve spent a lot of this year looking at daily life and realising that in our fast paced busy communication flooded lives we are very rarely properly listened to. We all have friends, family, colleagues, acquaintances, etc. that we talk with, but how often is the other party really, sincerely 100% listening to us without their own agenda? How often do we say and hear  “How are you?” “I’m fine”.

Also, as I told a friend recently I find it refreshing to have permission to open up to a counsellor about anything without fearing the consequences… when you talk to others in your life you edit the content as you tend to be fretting about either the effect of your words or the listeners opinion of you as a result.

So I would say that the main point of counselling sessions is to talk freely and to be properly listened to.

Do I need a counsellor?

Some lovely people have asked me similar questions around this theme, sometimes even using the age old “I have a friend” cover story. And I have not given advice, but merely listened, and after a while they have all suddenly realised that they had been talking for quite a while on a personal level in sometimes a really bizarre place, or to me who sometimes has been a relative stranger or at best a casual acquaintance… and they have drawn their own conclusions.

The BACP (British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy) website answers many more questions far more eloquently and concisely than I.

If you feel that your need is more urgent/immediate then please remember that The Samaritans are there for people talk to anytime you like, in your own way, and off the record – about whatever’s getting to you. You do not have to be suicidal.