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The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change. Carl Rogers

@ Peace Counselling Blog

Thoughts and ideas on mental health.

Why should I go to a counsellor?

All kinds of people, from all kinds of backgrounds, irrespective of age, gender, political persuasion, race, religion, socio-economic, sexual orientation or marital status seek counselling. Thankfully, it is becoming less of a taboo to be proactive about managing our own mental health, or even to discuss the subject. Seeing a counsellor is like having someone who you can talk to about absolutely anything; someone who just gets you. The fact that they are not involved in any other area of your life means that you will be given the space to present your real self, your world, your thoughts, your struggles, your pain, your dreams, your disappointments, your anger, your needs to someone who will listen to you without judgement and without their own agenda or opinion.

It’s about you. In today’s fast-paced world, too often there is little or no time to focus on our own individual needs, and this can impact on all our relationships whether this be family, work, friendships or romantic relationships.

 

                                      MASLOW’S HIERARCHY OF NEEDS

In his 1943 paper entitled “A Theory of Human Motivation”, Abraham Maslow proposed that as human beings, we all need to have five basic needs to be adequately met.

The physiological needs are the basics – namely air, food and water, and then clothing and shelter for protection from the elements. Sexual competition and the maintenance of an adequate birth rate are also included for the continuation of our species.

Once the physiological needs are taken care of, the next concern is said to be safety. This includes physical safety, economic safety, safety in terms of ongoing health and prevention of accidents or illness.

After the physical and safety needs, is the need for love and a sense of belonging. Maslow believed that as humans, we need to have a sense of acceptance and of belonging in our social groups. Humans need to love and be loved by others. Social anxiety and/or depression can be the result of not feeling loved and accepted by our particular social or family group.

Esteem is the fourth level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and it is the need for us as humans to be respected; respected by others and respected by ourselves. He thought there were two levels of esteem and labelled them higher and lower. The higher version manifests as a need for self-respect so strength, competence, self-confidence and independence are rated highly. The lower version may include a need for status, fame, attention and recognition.

The final need in the hierarchy is self-actualisation. This refers to each of us reaching our own full potential, whether that be aspiring to be the best parent we can be, or being the best athlete. Maslow thought that in order to understand and attain this last need we need to have achieved and mastered the previous needs.

 

 

If these needs are not met, some people can go through their whole lives with the vague sense that something is missing, but never really being able to identify it. Some people are aware that there is something missing, and may then spend time and energy trying to fill a void with ‘things’. Some might choose to pursue material things, others may become involved in inappropriate or damaging relationships, others may be thrill-seekers, or become addicted to alcohol, sex, gambling, drugs or food. There are some who may even have a good idea of exactly what is or was missing, and because they fear never fulfilling that need, may choose to withdraw emotionally or physically from the outside world to avoid feelings of hurt or disappointment. Or it could be that the need itself becomes so intense that the feeling of being overwhelmed has a huge impact on their everyday lives. Others may endeavour to attempt to convince themselves, and the world, that they are OK, thinking that this is how they should feel regardless of whether or not it’s true.

 

A good counsellor can help you make sense of your life, and help you to identify if there has been a basic need that has not been met for whatever reason, and help you find ways to cope with this, to grieve if necessary, and to find strategies and means of meeting these needs for yourself. It is also possible for your counsellor to recognise opportunities to revisit the developmental stages of childhood and for you to have any unmet needs recognised, honoured and validated.

So why not talk to a friend? It’s possible that your friend may be so fiercely protective of you, that what they may actually be doing is jumping in to rescue you, fighting your battles for you, or even unconsciously holding you back from something because they don’t want to lose you.

OK, why not a family member as they are the closest people to you? Well it could be that your family are equally protective and unable to see that you might need to fight some of your own battles for yourself – after all, there may not always be someone else around to do this when you need it. You could be left with the belief that you are unable to look after yourself, protect yourself or speak for yourself. It’s also possible be that someone in your friendship circle or family, for whatever reason, either knowingly or unknowingly, doesn’t actually have your best interests at heart.

So what will my counsellor do? Your counsellor will provide a space where your safety, your concerns, your needs are acknowledged, recognised, understood and valued. He or she will try to walk a mile in your shoes, to try to understand your world as you experience it, using your references, your language and your interpretation. He or she will reflect back to you what it is you are describing, much like holding up a mirror, so that you can then see more clearly what your world looks like. You can decide whether or not it needs to be tweaked, altered, changed in any way to better suit your needs, or if it is actually perfectly fine as it is.

Do I have to tell people that I’m seeing a counsellor? It is absolutely up to you whether or not you choose to disclose to those around you, that you are seeing a counsellor

Does this mean I’m crazy? Feeling that you’d like to make sense of who you are, or why you do or think the things you do, or wanting help with a particular concern doesn’t sound particularly crazy to most people; quite the opposite in fact.

What if I don’t like my counsellor? Like most relationships, it might be that for some reason, you just don’t like someone. A counsellor is no different. If you find that you don’t like your counsellor, or don’t feel you’re getting what you need, then you have the option to choose a different counsellor. It might also be a good idea to try to work through why the relationship isn’t working, or didn’t work.

Relationship? Yes relationship. It is a unique relationship though. Most of our relationships are about the concerns, the experiences, thoughts, ideas, wishes and aspirations of both parties. With your counsellor, it is all about you, your needs, your goals, your thoughts and feelings. The counsellor’s job is to hear, reflect, empathise and occasionally challenge the material that is brought into the therapy room, but always with the well-being of you, the client, in mind.

Will I have to tell my counsellor everything? It is totally up to you what material you bring to your sessions. There is no obligation to disclose absolutely everything. It might be an idea however, to consider for yourself possible reasons behind not wanting to discuss something with your counsellor.

What will I get at the end of therapy? The hope is that at the end of therapy, you will have a much better relationship with yourself, accepting and embracing the good and not-so-good aspects of your character, that you will feel better able to cope with any of life’s difficulties – whether these are in your past, your present or your future, and that you will have the feeling of being at peace with yourself.

 

“peace. it does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. it means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.” (unknown)

 

 

 

 

 

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