• Therapy isn't necessarily easy, but it might be the best thing you ever do

  • Counsellor Heidi Livermore explores how client and therapist work together to bring about positive change

  • If you are looking for a counsellor or therapist, you can find one here

Working together – it’s a nice inclusive phrase, isn’t it? It gives an impression of sharing a process – from beginning through the middle to the finish. That process may well include deciding what our goals are, where to start, which path to follow, sharing setbacks and successes, and recognising when we’ve reached our destination.

In person-centred counselling, collaboration between the counsellor and client is a vital element. You may have something going on in your life that isn’t working. You’re looking to change it, and we need to figure out how best to do that. Where do we start? By doing our best to understand that issue, how it affects you, what our alternatives are, and what your ideal vision of the best possible outcome is.

When we are trying to make sense of an issue, we might want to work through it like cats with a ball of string. We will bat it back and forth, unravel bits of it, look at it from all sides, and really get to know it. Sometimes we will want to leave that issue alone for awhile, kick it under the sofa (in a metaphorical way), look at something else, and then return to it, maybe to explore it from a different angle.

It can be difficult to talk about that issue in depth at first – so often we spend masses of energy coping with really awful stuff in our lives, doing our best to minimise the impact it’s having on us. Because we have to carry on, don’t we? We want to give the appearance of dealing with things effortlessly and elegantly. We don’t want to look vulnerable, we don’t want to seem weak, we don’t want anyone’s pity. So we put a nice neat plaster on our broken leg and carry on regardless. And we hope our leg doesn’t fall off.

In counselling, you will get the opportunity to talk about that issue – freely, in depth, with no editing, and no need to pretend that it’s just a little blip on your radar. Sometimes it will take some time to feel comfortable with taking off that plaster and looking at what’s underneath. And admitting that yes, that broken leg is indeed broken and you want to get it sorted.

Once we have got that issue on the table and can look at it in all its gory glory, it can often lose some of its power over us – it’s not a concealed or unacknowledged thing anymore, it’s something we can name, understand, and work through.

Counselling is not an easy process, but it can be one of the most rewarding things that you will ever do for yourself.

Further reading

Working with the body in counselling

How writing a journal complements counselling

Should we get counselling before our wedding?

10 ways counselling can change your life for the better