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CHAPTER TEN: How do I know who might be right for me?

Jonathan Ingrams Karnac Books ePub

THERE ARE NO GUARANTEES, but you can take steps to minimize the risk of a relationship that doesn't work. When you make contact, give the counsellor a very brief description of the issues you would bring to them such as “I am having difficulty controlling my temper” or “I find myself becoming anxious for no reason” and ask him or her how they would approach such a problem. A professional therapist should be able to give you a clear, intelligible reply. You might also ask when they last provided counselling for someone in a similar situation. The way questions like these are answered can be a useful indicator of a counsellor's skills in these areas.

The counsellor, too, is likely to ask you some questions, but don't expect a full consultationover the phone! From this initial discussion you should get some perception as to whether this is someone with whom you could productively share confidences. Feel free also to ask about their qualifications, which professional organization they're a member of, and how much experience they have. Experience is not just a matter of how many years a counsellor has been qualified, but how many hours he or she has actually worked with clients. Someone counselling for ten years but who sees only one or two clients a week will actually have far less experience than someone seeing six clients a week for half that time. An important factor in determining how successful the outcome will be is how you connect with the counsellor, and the initial conversation you have with them can be helpful in this regard.

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CHAPTER FOURTEEN: What happens in a counselling session?

Jonathan Ingrams Karnac Books ePub

THIS DEPENDS, at least in part, on your counsellor's way of working. It is useful to have some idea of his or her orientation before you start, as whilst all approaches share the common aim of helping you to move forward, they do so in different ways. These were reviewed in an earlier chapter.

Unless someone else has already done an assessment, as happens with agencies, at the start of the initial session the counsellor will likely begin by asking you some questions about your background and family history. This is so that when you talk about the issues that have brought you to counselling, he or she will be able to decide how best to address your concerns.

Events in childhood can have a significant effect on our outlook on life even if we haven't realized it. Was our family close or were our parents separated? Who brought us up? Whom did we look upon as the most important influence in our early years? Was our childhood happy?

Do we have siblings and if so, how did we get on, and do we remain in contact? Even questions about how we spend our leisure time can provide useful material. Factors like the death of a close relative, an experience of violence or abuse, or alternatively a successful career move, or embarking on a new relationship can affect, sometimes profoundly, how we think of life at any given time.

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CHAPTER FOUR: The road to self-discovery

Ingrams, Jonathan Karnac Books ePub

Oak Park, Chicago was the birthplace of Carl Rogers (1902–1987), still one of the most influential figures in psychotherapy today. Rogers pioneered a move away from traditional methodologies. In contrast to Freud’s rather gloomy view of human nature as a cauldron of sexuality and aggressive tendencies, manifested in the id and the ego, which the super-ego struggled to keep under control, Rogers took a very different view of humanity. Perhaps because for a time he studied to be a priest, he saw people as fundamentally healthy and believed that we all have the ability to develop our potential to the fullest extent, provided that conditions are in place for us to do so.

A plant trying to grow in a dim and musty cellar will send out tendrils towards the light it needs if it is to survive. But, significantly, if the plant is moved and placed in an environment conducive to healthy growth it will automatically thrive. This is the essence of Rogers’ therapeutic approach. He was intrigued by the way that even if conditions are harsh, this tendency will endow the organism with the capacity to make the very best of what is available to sustain itself. Thus, mushrooms can push up paving stones, birds migrate for thousands of miles, and humans can create works of art, utilize atomic energy, and invent the cuckoo clock.

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CHAPTER SIXTEEN: What might block my progress?

Jonathan Ingrams Karnac Books ePub

AS DISCUSSED EARLIER, although all therapists have the same objective, namely to enable you to develop your life skills, they set about this in one of a number of different ways. It may well be that a particular methodology doesn't work for you, in which case you could find yourself becoming frustrated and stuck. This is one reason why it is worthwhile checking with the counsellor how they work before starting. If you feel their approach might not be right for you, it may be better to look for someone else.

Major organizations, such as The British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy, define the ethical framework for good practice in great detail, covering responsibilities to clients, the moral codes which counsellors shouldobserve, and the overall quality of care they should provide. The vast majority of counselors adhere closely to these guidelines and practice high standards of professional conduct. But you may feel uneasy for other, less immediately definable reasons; a sense of an innuendo, or a remark you may perceive as having erotic overtones.

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CHAPTER ONE: Beginnings

Ingrams, Jonathan Karnac Books ePub

It seems only right that we start with Sigmund Freud (1856–1939), the Big Bang from which all psychotherapy emerged. He’ll almost certainly be the first authority you’ll be introduced to if you go on a counselling course. But although a huge influence on the development of psychotherapy, he didn’t emerge from a vacuum, or practice in isolation. Before Freud, superstition and magic were often believed to be the prime controllers of mental functions. A contemporary of Freud, William Walter Atkinson (1862–1932), in his book Mind and Body or Mental States and Physical Conditions, published in 1910, observed: “Mental Healing operates under a thousand names, forms and theories in every race, nation and clime in all ages past and present”.1 This remains true to this day. Proof of this can be found in an incident as recently as 2007 in which the actress Phyllida Law had two gargoyles stolen from her garden. She erected a notice warning that she had put a hex on the culprit. Some time later, the statues were returned, with a note from the thief pleading her to lift the curse as he had been very ill since he stole the gargoyles. Law duly put up another notice: “Thank you for returning the statues. All curses lifted.”2

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