Effective counselling doesn’t have to mean dwelling on your past

Effective counselling doesn’t have to mean dwelling on your past. I always find it interesting to see how frequently, in a first session with a new client, people arrive with the impression that we’re about to embark on a long journey into and through their childhood. There is a common misbelief in the general public that effective counselling involves a long intense sift through all of one’s childhood experience in order to find ground zero. For many, it is believed that effective counselling needs to be a fearless quest to find that one event or experience that has then gone on to cause all of life’s other troubles.

Please let me assure you, dear reader, that this simply is not the case. Apart from a few specific experiences (sexual abuse in childhood for example), the behavioural and personality traits we exhibit in adulthood that bump against the world in a painful way are not caused by a single life experience. They are caused instead by a multitude of life events and the meanings we take from them. Launching on a tireless quest to find emotional ground zero is, in almost all cases, a fool’s errand. And besides, how much good would it do to find what that event is anyway? Would pinpointing a person’s fear of public speaking on one day in year 5 when everybody laughed at them for misspelling Parliament really going to suddenly turn them into Barrack Obama? The answer to that is an emphatic NO!

Effective counselling is about coming to understand why life hurts so much now, and then working to understand what would make life work better for that person. Once that is achieved, we then work to discover what tools, skills and assistance would best help them to approach life differently. This is not to say that effective counselling never looks back at one’s past. Quite the opposite. Everybody has a story, and that life story is important. Without question there will be clues in that life story that will help us better identify why life hurts so much now, but disappearing into that life story for weeks on end is not necessary. In fact, I would go so far as to say it can be downright destructive and damaging in its own right.

Interestingly, it is often the case that when we focus on today in counselling, and work out what is going on and what is needed to make things better, it has an almost reverse domino effect on healing things from the past. This is not always the case, but it is so often enough that it is worth mentioning.  If you would like more information on what would constitute effective counselling in Bishops Stortford for you, please do not hesitate to contact me for a fully confidential, no obligation discussion of your needs.