Paul Cockayne – 07791 970406 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Welcome to my counselling blog. You can find more information about me by clicking one of the links at the top of this page
How can I tell whether my clients are making progress? How do I know when they are ready to finish counselling? Well, the largest part of this answer is that I don’t – and I don’t need to – because the decision to continue counselling or to finish lies with my clients, not with me, and the most important question is whether they feel ready to finish counselling.
Having said that, there are various signs that I might observe during counselling that leave me with an impression about my client – whether things are changing for them and whether counselling is continuing to be useful for them, and I might well share these with a client when we are talking about ending counselling.
There can be many different signals for me, depending on my clients and their circumstances. When I am working with couples, for example, one indicator will be how much the couple talk directly to each other and how much they need to talk through me. I will also form an opinion based on how much I am needing to put into the work with a client – how much are they looking to guide them, and how much are they doing on their own.
Another important indicator, particularly when working with individuals, is what I would call “shifting horizons”.
Many clients, when they start counselling, are in a very confused state of mind. A first session might be very emotional – they might spend a lot of time expressing their anger, or crying, for example. And often (but not always), first sessions are very unstructured. It is not uncommon that, when I ask clients what has brought them to counselling, they’ll say “I don’t know where to start”. And they’ll maybe start at a point in their story, and work forward a bit, and then jump back several years, then suddenly change to talking about what happened yesterday.
This confusing way of telling their story reflects the confusion in their head and while my clients sometimes apologise for talking too much, or crying all the time, or jabbering in a confused way, I tend to think that they are simply describing their feelings and their state of mind to me in an indirect way by doing this, and actually, it’s helpful both for them and for me.
As counselling progresses, the way clients behave tends to change. They will tend to become calmer, events will slot into chronological sequence more readily, and they might start to spend more time talking about the feelings of others than they did at the start of counselling.
The horizons shift. Instead of being caught up in what is going on in their heads, in their immediate feelings, in their confusion, they start to look around them. They notice other things, other people, and look at things from different points of view. Instead of concentrating all their mental energy in surviving the next hour, or day, or few days, clients start to think more about the future, about the long term, about the bigger picture.
And if they can do that, they probably don’t need to be in counselling.