WHAT IS COUNSELLING?

Counselling might best be described as a relationship between two people: the counsellor and the client. But what distinguishes this relationship from any other type of interaction one might have? In simple terms, the counselling relationship is unique in that it aims to make the party seeking help whole again. What does this mean?

In the course of our development each of us is compelled to disown parts of ourselves. This usually happens when the environment fails to acknowledge and support our experience sufficiently. It is also likely to occur as a result of trauma. In both cases, these parts do not simply disappear, rather they are driven underground where they continue to strive for expression. By parts is meant patterns of feeling, thought or behaviour. When difficulties occur in our lives, a bereavement for example, our capacity to respond adaptively to these events is influenced by the extent to which we are integrated within ourselves, or whole. Complications arise where such events are in some way related to an earlier unprocessed or unresolved issue.

In this context counselling becomes an opportunity to reclaim what is rightfully ours. Namely, experience which in the face of environmental failure, and/or overwhelming pain, had to be disowned. Seen and related to for the first time, these abandoned parts of ourselves can begin to be integrated into a coherent whole, and in so doing start up a process that was ended prematurely. A process of integration, this has the potential to free us from the conflicts, compensations and blocks that inform our experience; and which underpin so much of our suffering. In possession of a richer and deeper self, allied with a new-found resilience and understanding, we are now in a position to live our life in a more satisfactory and meaningful way.