Does ounselling support help reduce anxiety
Does counselling help reduce Stress and Anxiety?
The following is to give an outline of what is meant by counselling generally. How counselling may help and what we should expect when you contact or are referred to a counsellor. I shall also use some case material to illustrate where, when and how seeing a counsellor can be helpful.
To begin, what do we mean by the term ‘counselling’?
The dictionary gives the following definition:
Counsel: advise (person to do); give advice to (person) professionally on social problems etc.; recommend (thing)
Counselling seeks to provide an environment in which ‘talking’ can bring relief, lessen the sense of aloneness that often accompanies personal crises and offers support to help you find your own answers to your problems. It respects confidentiality, individuality and provides a safe place in which to explore your issues without being judged. Counselling can also help you and your partner if you have one to ‘hear’ and understand each other's feelings at a time when your relationship may be under a great deal of strain.
The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy have this to say about counselling:
‘Emotional problems don't go away by ignoring them and we suppress them at our cost: migraine, headaches, backache, low energy, tension, stress, constant grumpiness, depressed feelings or fits of irrational temper – the likelihood is that most of us will recognise something in this list! It is natural and healthy to seek help when we can't sort things out on our own. In the old days we might have gone to the local priest or minister, family doctor or a favourite aunt. Now with communities split up and everyone leading busier lives, these characters have faded from the scene or, although understanding, simply don't have the time to offer. Counsellors are in many respects, filling that gap.’
Differences in theoretical approaches
Sometimes people ask what is the difference between counselling and other ‘talking therapies’. This is not always easy to answer as therapists themselves will often debate the finer points that distinguish one therapy from another. However, the Department of Health publishes a useful booklet called ‘Choosing Talking Therapies’ (2009) which provides some basic definitions including the following:
‘Counselling is different from psychotherapy and psychoanalysis. The latter two tend to assume deep disturbances rooted in the client's past, particularly in their childhood relationships. Counselling in contrast starts from the idea of addressing the immediate issues in people's lives and provides an opportunity to explore the associated feelings.’
Remember that choosing a particular kind of counselling or psychotherapy is far less important than choosing the right person – a therapist who you feel comfortable with. Research studies have shown that different kinds of counselling and psychotherapy can be equally effective. The key factors for success are
- The skill of the therapist
- Whether you feel comfortable with them
- Your own level of motivation
For example; Why might you consider counselling in relation to fertility issues?
Having a child is a major life event for anybody and when this is proving difficult to achieve, it can feel like a major life crisis. What should be a normal life stage, for some anticipated since young adulthood or even his or her own childhood, now seems almost unattainable. Life may begin to revolve around medical interventions – hospital and clinic appointments, investigations, diagnoses, treatments and outcomes. All of these can trigger intense feelings such as:
Treatment itself may bring up issues or experiences from the past you have thought to be forgotten or ‘left behind’.
What does counselling offer?
A professional and confidential service in which you have the opportunity to talk to someone who is
- Separate from other areas of your life
- Independent of any treatment decision or procedure
- Informed about the medical and technological procedures as well as the legal, social and psychological aspects of infertility and treatment
- Available to listen in a specific way
- Will not judge you
What were your initial feelings about any form of counselling before you attended?
- I used to imagine lying on a couch talking to a stranger. I couldn't understand how anyone could tell someone their feelings
- I was very wary, I thought that I might be judged or that whatever I spoke about would be repeated
- I've never considered myself the sort of person who would ever need counselling, as I am usually quite relaxed and in control, but on receiving my letter about IUI, I became extremely depressed and anxious and needed someone to talk my fears through with
How can counselling help?
Whatever your difficulties at whatever stage, a professional counsellor is someone who will help you to:
- Make sense of how you are feeling
- Explore and clarify your thoughts and concerns
- Understand your reactions and find ways of coping
- Identify choices and make decisions (about treatment options, including whether to use medical interventions, when to start treatment and when to stop)
- Consider the implications of specific procedures
- Come to terms with treatment not being successful, available or possible at all
- Celebrate with you and support you in adjusting to pregnancy
- Plan your future with or without children
With what can counselling help?
- Loss of confidence and self esteem
- Loss of control over your life and sense of direction
- Feelings of isolation, sense of failure as a man or woman (as partner, husband, wife, son, daughter)
- Difficulties in communicating with partner, family, friends, colleagues and significant others
- Tensions within couple relationships including sexual tensions
- Living with uncertainty
- Other health concerns
What, if anything, do you feel you achieved from counselling?
- I feel I achieved and am still achieving an unburdening of a little of my pain. I have been helped towards seeing things in a more positive light and identifying action I can take to regain control of a situation which feels very alienating
- It helped us to release our anger and fears and to relax more about the situation we were in. Having someone who understood what we were going through was an enormous relief
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