The term individual counselling refers to counselling that focuses on one person’s psychological needs. Individual counselling is sometimes called one-to-one counselling, psychotherapy, therapy or simply counselling. The professional offering this service is normally called a therapist or counsellor. The persons seeking counselling is usually referred to as the client.
The aim of individual counselling is to provide a confidential environment in which a person can explore their psychological needs in a safe and open way.
Normally the person seeking counselling will have some idea about the issues they want to explore and these can include: feelings of depression or anxiety, how to deal with loss through bereavement, divorce or redundancy, problems in relationships or recovery from addictions. Because of the scale of their problems or because their existing coping mechanisms no longer work, many people need help to work through their feelings and develop new ways of coping.
The counsellor’s role is to help the client explore their problems in as much depth as possible to uncover the feelings that are causing difficulties.
Talking to a counsellor is different from talking to a family member or friend in a number of ways:
A counsellor has been trained in many aspects of human psychology and they will have spent at least two years in education (diploma level) and have 400 hours of supervised therapeutic contact before they see clients independently.
As a trained professional they are able to listen objectively to their clients whereas a friend or family member may be too emotionally involved to be able to step back and allow the client to explore the nature of their problems.
A counsellor is bound by a set of professional ethics to provide a confidential and safe environment for their clients. This means that unless there is a serious risk of harm to themselves or others, in which case a counsellor can contact health care and other professionals, what is said between counsellor and client is keep private between them.
A counsellor has access to a range of therapeutic tools and approaches that they can use to help the client, for example, they may use role-play in a session to act out a difficult situation or they may use a specific counselling model to work with a client.
There are many different models of counselling approaches
Counsellors usually have one that they prefer to use, however, it is normal for them to be skilled in a number of approaches or models, so the client should always ask about what their approach is, as they can feel very different. For example a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist works in an analytical way to challenge old patterns of thinking and behaviour, helping the client to develop new ways of thinking and behaving to deal with psychological problems, whereas a therapist skilled in Transactional Analysis will spend time exploring the messages and behaviours received from parents and other caregivers. Then, with the client, they will analyse how these messages affect the client now, the emphasis is on change through the client developing an understanding of how they can change these ingrained messages.
Finally, please note that if you are seeking a counsellor you will be able to find one that helps you, but it may be that you see several before you find the one for you.