There are many myths about what Counseling entails. Most of them are rooted in some outdated ideas about psychology and psychotherapy. Unfortunately, images of old men in beards, clients on couches and patients in asylums still define what counseling is for many individuals who might benefit from what counseling offers today. Often, people dismiss counseling as:
Something for "crazy people"?
Counseling is many
Counseling is a unique relationship in which the Counselor's job is to hold up a mirror in which the client sees himself or herself. We all have experiences in which we can't see things about ourselves without a mirror: like whether our hair is fully combed, whether we have something stuck in our teeth, or whether we have a wound in a hard to see place. We often need mirrors to see these things well enough to do something about them. And sometimes, we need someone to hold the mirror so we can see the things that are at more hidden angles. In addition to knowing at what angles to hold the mirror, the counselor understands that sometimes it takes a while for folks to see what they need. Finally, because most people tend to be hard on themselves, the counselor knows to hold the mirror in such a way that the client can see himself or herself from a caring, supportive, and sympathetic perspective.
Often counselors seem to only be repeating what clients are saying to them or paraphrasing rather than giving answers:
I hear you saying....
Actually, when counselors are doing this, there is a strategy behind it. Remember, counseling is not about experts fixing problematic people. Mirrors don't comb our hair. They just motivate us to pick up the comb by showing the areas that need our attention. When counselors ask such questions or make such statements, they are not necessarily seeking answers from clients. Rather, they are simply giving the clients an opportunity to focus on the things that seem out of view for them. Often this involves pointing the mirror to some neglected painful emotions.
Counseling is about reflecting back to the client that he or she is being heard and providing them an opportunity to hear themselves. Often, hearing ones own thoughts and feelings in another person's words adds a clarity and support that's difficult to grasp when emotional turmoil simply swims around in our heads without any form. When persons can see the most complete reflection of themselves, pain and all, they are more capable of learning about the details of themselves. With this enhanced perspective, those in counseling can make the adjustments needed to make their lives more satisfying.
Sometimes, because counselors have a lot of experience witnessing human beings in various forms of life challenges, they can ask questions or share observations that are more revealing than what friends or family members might say. With these new revelations, clients make decisions, and with the support of the counselor, they take action toward positive growth in their lives.
Thus, the relationship between the counselor (the supportive mirror) and the client is helpful in and of itself. The counseling relationship is one that exists between a person with caring expertise and a person with discouraging isolation around difficult life experiences. It is a relationship that emerges through a sharing of personal history and exploring powerful emotions surrounding experiences like:
Confusion, trauma, rejection, hurt, anger, fear, abandonment
Because the counselor is a real person who typically cares genuinely about the client, a relationship develops between them. Genuine connection, defined by closeness between two persons out of the trust-based sharing, emerges between them. However, because the counselor typically discloses very little about himself/herself in the counseling relationship in order to maintain a focus on meeting the client's needs and because the counselor's job is to "hold up the mirror," you, the client, are actua1lv forming a new relationship with yourself--- in more emotional detail and with a more accepting perspective.
this way, you, the client, begin to form a close
relationship with yourself as a growing individual,
increasingly equipped to take care of your self.