If you have been referred to an agency or a counsellor through your GP, or even if you’ve self-referred you may not know what type of counsellor yours is. There is a theory (the “Dodo bird verdict“) that suggests it doesn’t matter what type of counselling you have as long as you are committed to the sessions and that the therapeutic relationship is in place.
When a client sits down with me for the very first time, after going through the basics of a counselling agreement (which I’ll cover in a later blog post) I will try to work out whether or not they have had any counselling before and if so how it went. This is very important as it sets up where the client is coming from and gives me a chance to work out our starting point.
If my client has never had any counselling, or they have had counselling of a different type to my chosen way of working then I will begin by briefly explaining how I work as a person-centred counsellor.
The person-centred approach is based on the theory and philosophy of Dr. Carl Rogers. Carl Rogers explains it as a non-directive approach to being with another that believes in the others potential and ability to make the right choices for him or her self, regardless of the therapist’s own values, beliefs and ideas. BAPCA has a useful page called “What is the Person-Centred Approach?”
Basically this means that yes, I am trained, but that I do not consider myself to be the expert in the room. I am there as a sounding board, I hope to enable you to sort out your own life because you are the expert on your own life. I can only go by what you tell me, and so I will not give advice as this is not only unethical but dangerous as I will only have seen the small piece of your real life that you have shown me through the filter of your own thoughts, feeling and opinions… and any advice could be grossly inappropriate.
So, some clients ask, what’s the point? I hope that by providing you with a space that is yours, is confidential and where there is no need for filters will assist you to be able to sort through what is bothering you. I hope that we will be able to look at what you choose to bring in a calm, supportive and gentle manner. I hope that by being alongside you I will be able to make it so that you feel able to really get to grips with your thoughts and feelings and it is my sincere belief that you do have the answer within yourself and you just need some time and support to put your hand on it.
I see person-centred counselling as akin to trying to find a favourite top amidst piles of laundry. On your own the task can feel overwhelming and cumbersome but with some time, with a companion there, you will be able to sort through the random piles and straighten things out bit by bit until hopefully you can see clearly enough to find that favourite top.
Does it work?
Rather like Marmite, Person-centred counselling isn’t for everyone. It can be painful; shining a light at some parts of your life may not be pleasant. However I find myself privileged both as a client and as a counsellor to have witnessed the positive after-effects of person-centred counselling sessions. Clients have been surprised by how different they feel, how their outlook has altered and often small, subtle changes have in fact made big differences.