Have you ever wondered what the purpose of counselling is? And what can you expect in a session? There is a common misconception that therapy is only for people with serious problems. That simply isn’t true.

As one of the registered counsellors providing private video appointments at TELUS Health MyCare™, I often hear from people who are dealing with stress and anxiety caused by everything from work pressure and health challenges to relationship and parenting responsibilities.

Speaking to a counsellor can be beneficial for everyone. By opening up about your life with someone professionally trained to listen without judgement and help you feel better, the challenges you face can become less difficult, confusing, painful or uncomfortable. 

It can feel like a sigh of relief to share your thoughts and feelings and talk about how things are going in your life. Sometimes it feels good to have someone navigate life’s journey with you. A counsellor can give you skills and tools to help you access what you want to achieve in life and help you to navigate what you want your life to look like.

How does counselling help?

Counselling can help you improve your life by making it feel more manageable and enjoyable in several ways:

  • As a source of healing. By addressing past traumas and experiences that range from difficult childhood memories to dysfunctional households, counselling can help you feel like you’re in a better place now. 
  • As a way to process specific life events such as retirement, relationship breakups, changing jobs, or finishing high school. It can help you figure out what you want out of life and help you transition through the challenges and changes that life brings.
  • As a way to build coping skills that help manage stress and keep negative emotions under control. Many people grew up without learning how to handle emotions properly. Learning the skills to better regulate our emotions can improve our relationships with others.

What happens in a counselling session?

No preparation is needed to enter into a counselling relationship. All you need for an online counselling session is a quiet, comfortable place where you won’t be interrupted. I have been in sessions where clients were in their cars or sitting on park benches. One of the advantages of online counselling is that you can choose a space that’s comfortable for you. 

Counsellors will usually start by introducing themselves and providing some background on their experience. Then they’ll go over the guidelines for how counselling works and what to expect from the session. 

“What brought you here?” is often the first question a counsellor will ask as they start to build a picture of what’s happening in your life. They may also ask about your family or career history and about what you see as your strengths. Most therapists want to understand what you’re doing well in life, as well as the things that are giving you trouble. 

“How would you like your life to change?” is often the next question. That’s when a treatment plan starts to take shape around different ways to make positive change happen. Ultimately, a counsellor’s role is to understand what’s happening in your life and provide expert guidance on improving the situation at whatever pace works best for you.

How much counselling do you need?

That depends on the issues you’re facing. For example, someone with a long history of childhood trauma is unlikely to develop coping skills overnight. A lengthy counselling relationship is more realistic, owing to the trust that needs to be built and the different steps required to create change on many levels.

When issues are related to one-off life experiences or struggles in the present moment, anywhere from one to five sessions can achieve results, with occasional check-ins sometimes needed to monitor progress and make adjustments along the way. 

No matter how many sessions are needed, the power is always in the hands of the client. You can start one journey and then go in a different direction when something shows up in your life that ends up being more important. There is no “passing” or “failing” in counselling. 

Does counselling work for everyone?

A counsellor’s role is not to make change happen for you. It is to provide tools for making the changes you want in your own life. So the people who benefit most from therapy are those who can take what they’ve learned in a session and apply it to their lives, even when it feels uncomfortable. Because, for most people, change feels uncomfortable before it starts to feel good.

Will my counsellor give me life advice?

Think of a counsellor more as a guide than someone who will solve your problems. One of the first things I say to clients is that THEY are in the driver’s seat. Tell me where you want to go in life, and I’ll help with the directions. I can share different ways to get there, but it’s still your responsibility to drive.

What should I look for in a counsellor?

Anyone can offer a counselling service and call themselves a counsellor. The key is not to get hung up on the title but to look at the person providing the service. Ask them: 

  • Where did you receive your training? 
  • Do you have a diploma or degree? If so, what is it for? 
  • Do you belong to a professional association? If so, which one?
  • How long have you been practicing?
  • Do you have references?

Where can I find a counsellor?

You can find a list of counsellors available for virtual counselling through TELUS Health MyCare here. Check out their profiles and see who is a good fit for you.

You can also find directories of counsellors through the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association or the Canadian Professional Counsellors Association.

If you’re comfortable sharing, what has held you back from speaking to a counsellor? Any other questions about counselling you want the answer to? Please share in the comment below.

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