Updated: Mar 17
“Therapy is too good to be limited to the sick”. Erving Polster
When doing my studies, I discovered the work of Gestalt Therapist Erving Polster whose approach to therapy really resonated with me. But when I came across the above phrase in his book Gestalt therapy integrated: contours of theory and practice (1973), it highlighted my own views of counselling at the time, being that counselling was just for people who were ‘sick’.
On reflection, when thinking about Polster’s phrase, I began to realise that people come to counselling for many different reasons. This changed how I approached my studies from that point on, including how I would work when I set up AHRLEE Counselling. So, for my blog post today, I thought I would look at the many reasons people may seek support from a counsellor in the hope of de-stigmatizing counselling as a service reserved only for people that have mental health concerns. Whilst it is acknowledged that as counsellors, we do see many people with issues related to mental health, I believe it is also important to acknowledge other aspects of life that counselling can be of benefit.
You may have heard of this field before so you can probably appreciate that those who seek out counselling for these issues would not be defined as ‘ill’. Relationship/family counsellors usually support those looking to improve communication within or the quality of their relationships. Whether it is mediating between members or looking at strategies to improve relationships, counselling can be extremely valuable for people who want to move forward in a healthier way with their family and loved ones. This can be through defining clearer boundaries, developing clear communication strategies where each member feels heard and looking at ways where we can avoid reacting too quickly when we may not have all the information we need.
At some point in our lives, we will face the loss of someone close to us who we care immensely about. Processing the feelings and emotions attached to this can be extremely difficult to deal with and not always able to be done alone. Experienced grief counsellors can be very helpful and comforting to those experiencing grief, allowing you the space to work through your emotions in your way whilst being there to support you if needed. It must also be acknowledged that losing a pet can evoke the same level of emotion, as can losing a relationship or close bond to factors such as distance, addiction or relationship breakdown. Everyone grieves in their own unique way, there is no right or wrong way to do this. It can be a complicated process and experienced grief counsellors can be a valuable asset in helping you through these times.
This can be defined as thoughts that prevent you from moving forward or recovering from a situation or event. Whilst this can be a factor in those who experience mental health concerns, it can also manifest in everyday life when we may face a fork in the road or something we are just not sure how to move on from. Counselling can help you work through this by helping you to identify stuck-points and why they may be preventing you from moving forward. Counsellors may also assist with exploring what is in front of you, your options, as well as your resources and any potential benefits or consequences. The aim is to identify these stuck-points and empower you to make decisions that align with your needs and values to confidently move forward from them.
Life transitions are seen as an event or plan that will involve a major change to your lifestyle. These can be planned or unplanned, sudden or gradual and may evoke a sense of anxiety or apprehension. Examples can be transitions from school to work, occupational changes, geographical changes or even forced transitions from loss, disaster, addiction or illness. We can often get comfortable living a certain way or are happy with the routines we have in place so a major change does have the potential to produce stuck-points or increase anxiety. Counsellors can work in a similar way to stuck-points by identifying and exploring the particular aspects of change that may be causing us worry. Whilst life transitions can usually be positive, those that may be finding it a little difficult can certainly benefit from the extra support counselling can provide.
Counsellors can also support you in refining or developing skills to help you move through performance-based concerns. This could be study, occupational, sporting, artistic or any other part of life you may wish to improve. Students at university for the first time may find the study load hard to manage around other commitments or may not be performing as well on assessments as they think they should be. Someone taking on a new occupation may need help with developing new skills that are crucial to the role such as communication or people management skills. And of course, the mental aspects of sports performance are just as crucial as the physical skills and usually require a different sort of coaching to help the individual develop the strategies that are effective for them.
Simply Someone To Talk To
Sometimes, we may just need an objective, non-judgmental ear to vent or help mull things over with. We may not have these people readily accessible in our lives for a variety of reasons such as distance, lack of social interaction or we may just prefer talking to someone we do not know personally. This can be great for those who just want to debrief about their week or about a situation without feeling that an objective needs to be achieved in doing so. As counselling is generally client directed, you set the goals and this goal may simply be for the counsellor to provide an objective sounding board for you.
The aim of this article was not to provide an exhaustive list of reasons one may attend counselling, but to highlight some of the reasons people do attend that are not concerned strictly with mental health. When a client sits down in front of me, I see them as someone who wants to improve and move forward from something about themselves or their situation that is causing them concern. Of course, this can manifest at times we are not expecting it, it could be something we simply have not experienced before or something we have tried to deal with ourselves but have run out of ideas. In essence, before a client even speaks, they are already saying "I want to be a better me" which is something that should be commended. So talking your concerns through with a trained counsellor can give you that extra support you need to work through them in a way that aligns with your life and values, not external factors that do not consider your individual situation.