The processes of psychotherapy
and counselling

The processes of counselling and psychotherapy overlap but counselling usually focuses on a particular current issue. This can be very useful in the short term e.g. coping with bereavement, stress at work, exploring choices.

However difficulties, life events, the need to make decisions will always occur and it is useful to have knowledge of how we consciously and unconsciously approach these. Psychotherapy provides this knowledge in a broader exploration than counselling.

In discussion with the therapist a client becomes more aware of his or her own attitudes and behaviour. The relationship between client and therapist can then become a tool with which to consider how the client feels towards other people and events in their life. This exploration will provide further tools and strategies for the future.

Each person has patterns of behaviour which were learnt earlier in their life. These were useful then but may now be out of date having become an automatic response. In looking at these together we can recognise what they are and how they are produced. Would it be beneficial to change them? I encourage the client to become very aware of themselves and how they act in different situations.

But knowledge and awareness of attitudes are not enough to effect a change. They are the tools with which to do this. I encourage the client to try out different behaviours and to note the effect. This is often very difficult as the old ways are so ingrained. A person can reassess an attitude or behaviour and choose to act in a different way. If this results in a different experience it can encourage them to believe that things could be different. The process is hard work and takes time but every positive experience has an affirming effect and the person may come to believe that it is possible to make changes. I think that my role is to be available to give support and encouragement in this process.

Some people may be helped by the development of their communication skills and by becoming more specific and exact in their language.

Clients may need the support of a therapist while they explore their own feelings of grief e.g. grief, anxiety, anger. Others may want to make changes in their life.

It is really exciting to work with individuals in this way. For most people it is a novel idea that they could celebrate themselves as a unique person. I find that it is often possible for them to make changes and these bring rewarding results.

Copyright ©2004 M. O'Connell. All Rights Reserved.