It can be difficult to understand how simply talking can help us solve our problems. As a client we often are told extensively about the product or service that we intend to purchase before we commit to the buy. So, what is the buy in for counselling? It appears that one would sit down in a comfy chair, have their therapist come in who then goes on to perform a Jedi mind trick or two and suddenly we feel a great deal better about life. Although this isn’t too far off from the truth the process of counselling is a lot less fantastical and a lot more human. Let’s look at what happens in the therapy room to create a clearer picture of the process and its benefits.  

 What to expect:  

In the past 20-30 years mental health awareness has significantly increased with many turning to therapy as a primary health resource. Prior to this therapy has held a somewhat infamous reputation. Those that went to therapy were shamed for being unable to manage their own lives or simply that the idea of seeking help was seen as weak. This stigma has framed counselling as a ‘last resort’ service; the thing we do when we feel as though there is nothing else to do. Although this can be the case for some, counselling primarily offers a space of non-judgmental support that prioritises one’s goals and wellbeing.  

 So, what does this look like? In the therapeutic space itself you can expect a calm and welcoming environment. Your counsellor would first prioritise your comfort and then would begin by asking you some questions to get a sense of how the process could best benefit you. Coming into the session with an idea of your goals is always a good start! From there you and your counsellor would assess how best to achieve those goals by looking at what obstacles may be in the way and if any past life experiences play a role in your current, day-to-day life. By simply talking we uncover the things that matter most to us. The therapeutic space then offers a structured approach to building on this meaning together as a team.  

 What do we talk about?  

The conversations that take place ultimately hold meaning. Topics will include the aspects of your life that play a crucial role in how you think, feel and act. This means that what you speak about will be unique to you. This does not mean that you need to know what to speak about each time you go into therapy. Often the therapeutic process reveals what matters most through guided conversation. This is where you can expect your counsellor to ask you more specified questions about your life. 

 On average family history alongside current and past life events are discussed the most. If you have experienced some difficult life experiences such as loss, trauma, or abuse then these will only be discussed if you find them relevant to your future growth. Your counsellor will only take you where you want to go. You are always in the driver’s seat in the counselling process, deciding when you go forward or when you stop. Your counsellor understands that it is not always easy to speak about the Hard FeelingsÔ and so will always take care around these topics.  

 How does Talk Therapy help? 

Talk therapy itself holds an extensive range of benefits through the different techniques it offers. When considering the benefit of the talking aspect of therapy there are two primary contributors.  

 The first contribution is support. As human beings we are innately social animals. On the cognitive level we are wired for communication and cooperation. Although we have these big frontal lobes that allow for complex problem solving, our mid and hind brain work together to help us form deep emotional ties within our communities. In this way we are built to rely on the support of others to function in social world. Within the counselling relationship this communication within an accepting environment makes use of this social aspect of our brains to ease feelings of isolation and create a sense of affirmation in our social identity. Essentially, just speaking with someone about ourselves validates our experiences by satisfying our brains need for social acceptance.  

 The second contribution is externalising. Counselling allows us to bring our thoughts out into the open. Keeping our thoughts and emotions to our inner mental space separates these inward experiences from our outwards experience. In short, this means that much of what we think, and feel is seldomly shared which causes us to believe that we are the only ones with these thoughts and feelings. Having a space in which to share the thoughts that we find embarrassing or ‘too much for others to handle’ allows us to connect with parts of ourselves that we wouldn’t usually connect with. This helps alleviate anxiety significantly by reconnecting our internal world to or our external world.  

Author: Kevin Greenwood