The question is not what is going wrong but what could be better ?
So often, persons struggling with a problem, continue their daily lives, wishing the ‘problem(s)’ encountered will just go away, instead of seeking psychological counselling and guidance. Unfortunately most problems do not go away; they need to be deconstructed and worked through.
Emotionally based discomfort
As a counsellor, I come into contact with individuals, couples and families who have reached a point of such personal discomfort in their relationships (or absence of relationships) that they no longer know what to do for relief. This discomfort may manifest itself or be expressed in various ways, depending on the individual, but I think of it as emotionally based. The word problem is used in a broad sense. The individuals concerned are suffering pain or are experiencing circumstances too overpowering or too difficult to handle on their own. Of course the expression ‘difficult circumstances’ does not necessarily imply marital problems, bereavement or some other adversity; it could refer to situations of choice when major decisions (career, existential, etc) have to be taken.
In the work I do, I encounter not only those bogged down by problems, but also persons who feel they are not as effective as they would like to be. They have resources they are not using or opportunities they are not developing. People often feel locked in dead-end jobs, bland marriages, or abusive relationships, who are frustrated because they lack challenging goals, who feel guilty because they are failing to live up to their own values and ideals. They are disappointed and frustrated with their uneventful boring routine, they want to do something constructive with their lives. Such clients come to me for counselling not to manage their problems, but to live more fully. The question is not what is going wrong, but what could be better ?
Being stuck in a ‘problem’ story
It has often been suggested that most of us use only a small fraction of our potential. We are capable of dealing much more creatively with ourselves, in our relationships with others, at home and in the work place. I often encounter individuals in counselling who concentrate on their negative efforts – how they have failed – and seldom look at their potential. They engage in much ‘problem-talk’ and very little ‘solution talk’. Briefly, ‘problem-talk’ belongs to the problem itself and is not part of the solution. The individual is entirely focused on his/her problems and searches for an explanation, by means of ‘facts’ contained in a ‘problem-dominated’ story with the problem becoming heavier and heavier. The whole situation becomes complicated, overwhelming and hopeless. ‘Solution-talk’, on the other hand suggests that one cannot solve the problem with the same kind of thinking that created the problem in the first place. ‘Solution-talk’ is about talking ‘outside the problem.’
Why counselling ?
In a nutshell, counselling helps us to develop new insights and gain new perspectives around the problems we are struggling with, with the following basic goals in mind:
- To help clients manage their problems more effectively and develop unused or under-used opportunities more fully
- To help clients become better at helping themselves in their everyday lives
Counselling is not a passive endeavour. It seeks to promote something better, there is a transcendent dimension inherent in the action. With the help of counselling, meaningful outcomes have the ability to transform people, helping them to make confident and mature choices which are truly empowering when taking a stand against problem situations. It works for better outcomes and is about results, accomplishments and growth. When people make meaningful changes in their lives, they experience relief from the painful stress and demoralization that accompanied their personal situation. Discerning the specific behavioural changes that will be beneficial, and how these can be best achieved, is the real aim. Building upon existing skills is the best – perhaps the only way to reach this goal. The counselling environment is the place where people are encouraged and complimented for what they are doing well, not where their past mistakes are emphasised.
The purpose of counselling is not to resolve all problems at once, but to make an initial breakthrough which will help the client acquire the basic skills they will need for continued development and growth, after the counselling has ended. What I offer is my philosophy and care about helping people, my education and training, my intuition and my experience. I endeavour to create a climate in which my clients feel safe, comfortable, accepted and understood in their interaction with me, so that they can move on with their lives more comfortably. After my first meeting I expect my clients to take at least two things with them
- a sense of relief
- a feeling of hope