A guide to counselling

Staff Writer

For many people, when they think of counselling, they think of Good Will Hunting – a few words exchanged, a pat on the shoulder, lots of tears, all set to a moving score that makes you feel things.

In reality, counselling is much more than a client breaking down in a therapist’s office.

As much as we hope, life isn’t a movie where all loose ends are wrapped up nicely just before the closing credits.

Real life happens every minute of every day, with the smallest challenges giving the biggest victories.

Counselling is a common tool many people utilize to achieve day-to-day improvements, learning coping mechanisms for the harder moments in life, and even during life and lifestyle changes, most commonly through talk therapy.

Sheryl Johns, manager of Health, Wellness and Accessibility Services at Niagara College, says counsellors at the college will see between five and seven students on a daily basis and help clients with anything from relationship difficulties to finding learning strategies and mental health concerns.

“Since our service is client-centred we really help individuals explore and resolve their individual problems and concerns – whether these are school concerns, problems related to their work or in their personal life,” says Johns.

Grounded in dialogue, talk therapy provides a supportive and safe environment that allows you to talk openly with someone who is objective, neutral and non-judgmental. A client and their counsellor will work together to identify and change the thought and behaviour patterns that are keeping you from feeling your best.

A successful therapy endeavour is made up of mostly smaller breakthroughs on both sides – the counsellor learns a new way of connecting to someone and the client learning new ways of thinking or coping. Therapy gives you the opportunity to take advantage of all the tools available to you in order to fully enjoy the experiences life has to offer. Therapy doesn’t “cure” a patient, but that someone has the assets inside and outside to be able to deal with the joys and trials life has to offer.

Client’s Role
  • Attend regularly scheduled sessions
  • Talk as openly and honestly as you can
  • Complete any tasks or “homework” – coping mechanisms the counsellor wants you to try
  • Be willing to try new strategies without jumping to conclusions
  • Tell your counsellor about your successes
  • Tell your counsellor when you feel a strategy is not working
  • Accept that therapy doesn’t have to be permanent but is OK if it is
  • Understand that therapy doesn’t have to be only about your childhood or how your mother ruined your life
  • Realize that therapy is not an overnight solution
  • Patients must want to improve – therapy will not work if the patient is not actively taking part
  • Patients do not need to feel ashamed about seeking therapy

Counsellor’s Role
  • Provide therapy and coaching to manage stress, redirect disturbing emotions and set goals
  • Mostly one-on-one but may also work in tandem with other medical professionals to ensure patients get care for his or her mind and body
  • Establish boundaries of the therapy situation
  • Provide safe environment
  • Establish a warm, caring, therapeutic culture
  • Facilitate the awareness, growth and physiological development of the patient
  • Be likable and exhibit interpersonal skills
  • Be able to meet individual needs by providing person-specific attention
  • Be available for multiple sessions, as well as emergencies
  • Have something very applied and concrete to offer