Many people come to therapy expecting their counsellor to tell them what to do, to tell them how to ‘get over’ something, or generally to give out life advice.
These same clients often leave their first session feeling slightly deflated and disappointed that their counsellor has not done that at all. What their counsellor will likely have done is to answer the client’s questions with another question.
For example, a client asking, “What should I do in this situation?” might be met with “well, have you come across such situations in the past?”. Or a client asking “Is that normal?” will likely be asked “Is it important to you that I see you as normal?” or “what does normal mean to you?”
This can be incredibly infuriating for the client, they may be fuming that they have paid for a service that they feel they aren’t getting.
But why won’t counsellors answer such questions? Why won’t they give advice?
The counsellor’s role is to help the client to understand themselves better and to help the client to consider things from every angle, and to consider every option before the client then makes their own decisions.
Counsellors only spend 50 minutes a week with you, whereas you spend 168 hours with you. As counsellors, we are privileged to be allowed a window into your life, through your words. You, as the client, paint us a picture of your life, but we don’t really know your family, friends, work colleagues, and any other situations outside of the counselling room. Therefore we are ill-equipped to tell you what to do.
You are the expert in your own life, we are only here to facilitate you.
Given the points above, it isn’t really ethical for a counsellor to hand out advice to clients. Counsellors are often placed, by the client, in a position of authority, and therefore what the counsellor says is sometimes taken as truth. However, in truth, counsellors are humans too, and we make mistakes just like everybody else. What we are trying to do isn’t to be all-knowing beacons of wisdom, but empathic, approachable, and compassionate individuals with whom you can discover your own truth.
So, if you ever find yourself feeling frustrated that your therapist won’t point you in the ‘right’ direction, or won’t give you advice, remember that your therapist only knows you as much as you allow them to know you. You are the expert, your therapist is the witness. Allow your therapist to facilitate your journey rather than asking them to lead you.
As always, if you would like to book an initial counselling session with me, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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