When is the best time to access counselling?

This graphic is a light hearted look at when people access mental health support.  But as with everything that is light hearted, there is an element of truth underlying it.

Why is the timing important when accessing counselling.

You might be experiencing problems and wondering when you should ask for help. This blog will help you to decide.  Last month’s blog described your mental health as a pan of spaghetti.  When you feel as though you can’t see the wood for the trees then maybe it is time to get some support.  People automatically think that if they are feeling confused or overwhelmed that they need counselling, but that is not always the case.

When might counselling not be right?

Sometimes people say to us “I’ve tried counselling and it didn’t work”.  There are a couples of things which may have contributed to that feeling.

The main one is that you may not have had the right counsellor/therapist.  It’s really important that you feel comfortable talking to the counsellor, and they make you feel safe.  Yes there will be times when you might feel challenged or upset during the session. But at the end of every session you should feel listened to and in a safe place.

The role of the counsellor

How the counsellor works is also important.  Each counsellor works differently and they should be able to explain to you what their model is and how it will work for you.

The other thing we find is that people have been “sent” to counselling. Maybe they have been sent by another agency who doesn’t know how to help.

They think that because the person is anxious or upset they need mental health support.

For some people it’s just not the right time for counselling.  If you are worried about debt, trying to find a new job, escaping from an abusive relationship, your life will be in chaos.  Those things will be at the top of your mind all of the time, and while it may be useful to develop some coping strategies you just won’t have the brain capacity to look at yourself in detail.

Reaction to life events

The other time counselling might not be useful is if it’s too close in time to the event that has caused the feelings of pain.  We find after bereavement people are persuaded to come for counselling because they are hurt and upset.  Often it’s suggested by people who just don’t want the bereaved person to be in pain.  But grieving is a process that everyone needs to go through – and the awful feelings we get when someone we love dies are perfectly normal.  Where counselling is really useful is if someone isn’t moving through the grieving process, or they have complex or unresolved grief which caused them long term distress.  Counselling in that situation can be extremely effective.

How do I get the best support?

If you are trying to decide if counselling would be right for you, you should have an initial appointment with your potential counsellor who will ask you lots of questions about what is going on.  The first session isn’t counselling – it’s an opportunity for the counsellor to get an understanding of what is going on and if the type of counselling they can offer is the most appropriate help for you right now.  If it’s not they should be able to signpost you to other services which will work for you.

So while we don’t advocate leaving counselling until you are at crisis point, we would say that getting the right support when problems start will get the best outcome for you.

And if you do feel that counselling isn’t working for you then speak to your counsellor about why not.  They can help you to decide what your next steps might be.


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