On hearing the word counselling, an image of a person lying on a couch might immediately come to your mind. But in reality, not all sessions are like that. A more realistic depiction, although not 100% accurate, would be the conversations between Dr. Jahangir Khan and Kaira in ‘Dear Zindagi’, or even between Sean and Will in the film ‘Good Will Hunting’. So let’s take a closer look at what counselling actually is and how a session really looks like.
The ups and downs we go through in our life can sometimes leave a lasting impact on us. Often, we are able to cope with the challenges through sheer resilience, but some moments can feel darker and difficult to adapt or overcome. Such difficult life experiences can affect us emotionally and mentally, leaving us feeling drained, vulnerable or fragile. Seeking professional assistance, in the form of counselling or psychotherapy, can be a big step towards successful coping, ensuring your wellbeing and becoming the healthiest version of yourself. Although the terms counselling and therapy are often used interchangeably, there is a distinction between two, mainly in the duration and area of focus.
Counselling is typically short-term, involving a handful of sessions centred around identifying and managing or resolving present issues, on a conscious level. It is designed to address specific, immediate problems that may be affecting you, for example stress or career confusion. Counselling can be also quite helpful for a person in processing powerful emotions like anger or grief, gaining clarity for decision making, managing conflicts or enhancing relationships, developing better interpersonal and communication skills, or work on developing healthy coping skills.
Psychotherapy, on the other hand, is a longer process that works on a much deeper level to bring about change. It helps a person become more self-aware and examine their attitudes, thoughts, and behaviours that have impacted their life and relationships. Using various scientific techniques, it focuses on changing irrational beliefs, unhealthy thought patterns, or even unhelpful behaviours. Along with managing symptoms and reducing distress, it also addresses the impact on daily life and functioning. Psychotherapy can be particularly beneficial for people struggling with anxiety, depression, grief and loss, or other complex emotions and chronic physical or mental health conditions.
So what exactly happens in a counselling/therapy session? No one can tell you exactly what your sessions will be like, because each person goes through their own journey of self-discovery and change. However, all commonly involve establishing and working towards some goals that are agreed upon between you and your counsellor. Further, the ‘talk therapy’ is actually purpose driven and the professional makes use of different techniques while doing so. The focus here is not only on what you talk about, but also on how you perceive and share your feelings and experiences.
In this process, your counsellor/therapist will provide you a ‘safe space’ where you can work through your difficulties, in an environment that makes you feel comfortable, understood and supported. They will listen to you actively, without any biases or judgments, with the intention to understand you and not give any opinions or advice. They will simply show you the path, and empower you with skills, but the actual journey has to be made by you. For example, if a student is confused about their career, then the counsellor will just empower him/her in decision making by identifying the options, benefits, suitability or interests. But the actual decision of which career path to pursue would lie with the student only.
All mental health professionals are bound by the ethical principles of ensuring confidentiality – this means that whatever happens in a session, remains private between the two of you. This confidentiality is breached only in situations where there might be a risk of harm to you, to others or if the counsellor is legally obligated to do so.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be “crazy,” or on the verge of a meltdown to seek counselling. Similarly, counselling isn’t usually necessary for every little struggle you encounter, especially if you have a strong support system of friends and family. So how do you know when it’s time to see a professional?
Most people can benefit from therapy at some point in their lives. Sometimes the signs are obvious—but at other times, something may feel slightly off and you can’t figure out what it is. Making the decision to consult a mental health professional can be hard – you might initially feel uncomfortable asking for support or worry that it isn’t ‘ so bad enough’. But remember – when it comes to ensuring your mental wellbeing, there is no wrong time to seek professional help. If you’re not feeling like yourself, don’t ‘wait to see if things get worse’ before reaching out.
Under the We Are In This Together (WAITT) initiative, the Sakal Media Group has partnered with trained and experienced mental health professionals who provide counselling and psychotherapy.
Dr. Shirisha Sathe is a highly reputed Clinical Psychologist and Hypnotherapist and her areas of expertise include domestic violence, couples/marital therapy and anger management.
Dr. Juhi Deshmukh specializes in Neuropsychology, Positive Psychology, Cognitive and Clinical Psychology and is also a passionate academician along with being an experienced mental health care professional.
To book an appointment, you can visit https://www.waitt.in/therapy/.
In case you are in distress and require immediate support, you can call their Helpline number: 02071171669.