Things I don’t do? Why focus on those, you might ask. Well, some are expected and some are feared. Here’s where I stand (or sit…)
- I don’t often give advice. Why not? Because you need to feel good about trusting your own decision-making. Some people have always done what was expected of them. Do you still hear the echo of words spoken by relatives, teachers, religious leaders or other authority figures? Do you still do stuff because you vaguely sense that you ‘should’? It’s important to figure out what you actually believe, what you want to claim as your own in terms of values and attitudes. There’s no point in adopting those of another individual including your counsellor. When you have sifted through all your inherited beliefs, thrown some out, tweaked some, wholeheartedly adopted others, then you are ready to make your own decisions based on your own value system. You can be true to yourself. You might want to ask the opinion of trusted others, but you make your own decisions and take responsibility for them.
- And I don’t solve your problems for you. I have no magic wand, I can’t undo the suffering you may have undergone. I can’t mend broken relationships, reinstate you in lost jobs or bring people back to life. But if we can build a trusting, compassionate space to work in then together we can make things more bearable. I’ve seen it happen on both sides of the room. Hope can be rekindled. Lights can be found in the darkness. Some situations can be improved, others can more easily be borne and some can be left behind. But we will work on this together, it is an active process, not one that is done to or for you.
- You should know that I don’t talk about you. Or at least I don’t do so in any way that will identify you. I need to know that I am responding to clients appropriately so I check out my work with a supervisor at monthly meetings. But she never hears your name. I’ve been a counselling client myself and knowing that sessions were confidential was very important to me.
- That also means that I will respect your privacy should we meet outside of the counselling room. Whether we speak or not is entirely down to you. I won’t bring up counselling or anything I learned there. I’m not being unfriendly but it’s important that you know it’s your choice to recognize me or not, outside of the counselling room. If you do want to talk please remember we can’t have a free half session on the pavement whilst I’m trying to get my shopping done!
- Lastly I don’t criticize or judge. Counselling sessions are safe places where you can risk bringing into the open things that you might normally keep shut away. I think taking that risk should be honoured and respected. Some things are not as awful when they are shared in an accepting space. Others might seem worse and no longer things you want to cling to. Light, warmth and acceptance can be transforming and empowering.
Many of these things are covered in detail in the Ethical Framework that I adhere to as a member of the BACP. Keeping appropriate boundaries, maintaining confidentiality, being accepting and non-judgemental are all important values and practices for counsellors. And I take them very seriously as should anyone you ever work with.
If you’ve any questions about any of this please raise them in the comments section. Have you had counselling that has worked differently? Did you want to be given advice? Have you any bad memories about awkward encounters with an ex-counsellor or client! I’d be interested in hearing from you.