Counselling Priorities: Exploring or Coping?
When people think about starting a process like counselling or psychotherapy, the first thing that many of them think about is how painful it is to start exploring history and opening old wounds. We can wonder if it's about exploring or coping, and which is best for us. However, it doesn’t have to be this hard – there is more than one way of making progress.
It can seem like it is only about pain …
Sometimes we think that the only ‘useful’ counselling or psychotherapy is one that involves pain and reliving past hurts. We imagine that we go to see a professional and unload about the most difficult things in our life; that ‘getting it out’ at the start is necessary to feeling better about things.
For some people this definitely helps; they feel calmer and lighter for talking to someone who takes a sustained and empathic interest in their lives.
… but for the some, the priority needs to be coping
For other people, immediately talking about the worst aspects of their lives only puts them makes them feel worse. Opening old woulds too early just sucks them further into their difficult history and makes them feel worse. For them, talking about it means they feel they are drowning in the bad stuff. Counselling like that feels too hard, and they feel they never get to feel better about it.
For these people, it's a priority to learn how to cope with their overwhelming feelings. They need to cope with their feelings without necessarily getting too much into them. For them, sometimes they need to be able to hold it in. Rather than explore it, they sometimes just want to learn to better cope with it so they can get on with their lives.
Exploring or coping, your psychotherapist can help
When you work with a professional psychotherapist or counsellor they will work with you in either of these modes, depending on what you find helpful. They are skilled in helping you feel comfortable enough to talk, and if you find this helpful, to gently and respectfully work with you through that. However, they are also experienced with people who want to learn how to hold it in and to gain more strength to do that. Ultimately, each individual has their own way of getting a handle on things, and a skilled psychotherapist or counsellor will help you find ‘your’ way.
– Tim Hill
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.