Counselling doesn't work for me.
We hear this a lot from both children and adults. It is common for people to have negative ideas about counselling before even trying it. What we know about counselling, we see on TV or through anecdotal stories from friends and families. Perhaps they tried it but it wasn't a good fit or felt like a waste of time.
Here is a beautiful dialogue between the male protagonist and a counsellor friend from the Russian Doll on Netflix:
The counsellor: "Therapists are important. Without them, we are very unreliable narrators of our own stories"
Alan: "Okay okay, I will give it a try. Just this once."
After that session, Alan told Nadia that "I told you it wouldn't work. Therapy is my biggest fear. It's like if you said that you were afraid of spiders and I was like "here's a bunch of spiders."
We are very unreliable narrators of our own stories
I love this line, but it does give the audience the wrong impression that counsellors are story editors. Hence, why Alan is afraid that his deepest fear is being called crazy because he doesn't want to be told his recollection and memory of his lived experience as flawed. Well, yeah, that would be gaslighting. Counsellors are not supposed to gaslight their clients.
Counsellors are listeners of the story. We are not looking for blind spots, plot holes, and contradictions. We unconditionally accept the subjective experience of the protagonist. Clients have the right to tell us the story in ways that are meaningful for them. We are not judges. Our attention is on how the protagonist is experiencing their story and to fully empathize with them. Science has demonstrated that a simple gesture of empathy can have an immediate impact on a person's physical and emotional health. We believe that everyone is doing the best they can and making the best decision they can at that moment. We approach our clients with unconditional positive regard and for an hour, see you as the most important person in the world.
Ensuring the client feels safe with us is the number one priority, so definitely no giving clients a bunch of spiders in the first session. Some counsellors like me do not even offer exposure therapy.
Next post, I will further deconstruct what counselling can be, especially for neurodivergent people and those who don't like to tell stories.