Paul Cockayne – 07791 970406 – email@example.com
Welcome to my counselling blog. You can find more information about me by clicking one of the links at the top of this page
People come to counselling for many different reasons, in many different situations and their expectations of me, as a counsellor, vary a lot. Clients may want a place to talk, or a place where they can quietly think. Others may want a shoulder to cry on, or may hope to build their self-confidence. And then again, they might be looking for a sense of direction, help in prioritisation or just help in making one specific decision.
All these things I can help with, or at least try to help with. But what I can’t do, and what some clients seem to expect me to do, is to give you the answers.
If you have a problem with your car, or with the plumbing in your home, you call an expert. The car goes into the garage, the plumber comes round and takes a look, and they diagnose what is wrong, fix it and send you the bill. Dentists and doctors work in a similar way. They are experts (you hope) in their field, they can diagnose what is wrong and correct it.
It’s a bit different if you’re trying to learn a new skill. If you want to be able to play the piano, or speak French, or drive a car, you still need an expert to help you, but their expertise lies as much – or more – in their ability to help you learn, than in their ability to play the piano, or speak French, or drive a car themselves. Of course, you need them to be able to do these things, it would be strange to take driving lessons from someone who hadn’t passed their test, I think! But the best exponents of a skill are often not the best teachers.
As a counsellor, I am more like a teacher than a plumber (and some rather wet experiences of my DIY plumbing confirm this), but there are significant differences between my role and that of a teacher. To illustrate this, you might ask your teacher “what’s the French for pineapple?” or “how do I do a 3-point turn?”) and expect to be given a straightforward, directive or helpful answer. If you were to ask a counsellor “Should I leave my husband?” or “Why am I so unhappy?” or “How can we stop arguing?” you are likely to get an indirect answer, or another question, or maybe just silence.
The reason for this is because the answers to such questions are so personal. Whether the car goes or not is a mechanical question, although your skill as a driver my affect how well it goes. In learning to speak French, you are probably seeking to achieve an external standard that you do not entirely control – the ability to communicate with others who speak French. But the answer to the question “Why am I so unhappy?” lies within you, it is internal rather than external.
Counselling deals with thoughts, feelings, beliefs, values, ideas and reasoning. All these things lie within the client. Of course, counselling also deals with behaviours – you may want to stop drinking, or arguing or cheating on your partner – but a counsellor will tend to address these issues at least partly by looking at why you behave in the way you do – what is going on in your head? What are your beliefs, values, thoughts and feelings? I haven’t yet recommended that a cheating partner goes and buys themselves a chastity belt!
As I counsellor, I do have expertise and experience, of course. I have ideas about what might help a client stop drinking, I have read books about addiction, I have worked with other clients and know what has worked, or has not worked for them. But I don’t know what will work for you. Only you can explain what is going on in your head (though I can help you do that). Only you can change the way you think, feel or behave (though I may have some useful ideas). I may offer suggestions, but only you can tell me whether they are helpful or unhelpful for you. Only you can judge whether you are achieving what you want to achieve.
I’m sorry, but I don’t have the answers. But you do.