1. Only people with severe mental problems go for counselling.
Actually most of the people who seek counselling are perfectly normal, sane people who simply find themselves struggling at a particular point in their lives or with a particular problem. Often they are too close to the situation to be able to find a resolution or the situation has become too stressful to be able to work it through on their own. Where relationships are concerned, when problems arise because of changes or perceptions, often communication difficulties arise and couples find it impossible to move forward on their own. With the help of a counsellor or therapist, however, they can identify the real issues and find solutions which work for them.
2. A relationship has to be at the end of the road before counselling needs to be considered.
Although many people put off going to relationship counselling until the situation has got very serious and divorce seems imminent, in all cases it is better to seek help sooner rather than later. Attending counselling sessions as soon as you can see that there is a problem helps to resolve matters before they have the chance to escalate.
3. The counsellor will take sides.
The aim of relationship counselling is to work with couples or families to achieve a state of harmony where everyone’s voice is heard and everyone’s needs are met. Counsellors cannot help their clients to achieve this by apportioning blame or taking sides, but only by creating a non-judgmental atmosphere in which everyone concerned feels supported.
4. The counsellor will turn my partner against me.
This is one of the greatest fears that many people have about the counselling process. Perhaps because of their own sense of guilt about things that they have said or done in a relationship, or perhaps because of their own sense of insecurity, they feel that they will be judged, found wanting and that the counsellor will convince their partner to leave. The aim, however, is for the counsellor to facilitate understanding and communication so that the relationship works better for all concerned.
5. The counsellor is a complete stranger and so cannot possibly understand our relationship.
It is precisely because the counsellor is a completely unbiased outsider that he or she is so well-placed to help. Anyone who is too close to the situation, such as a friend or family member, would not only be likely to take sides, but would also be unlikely to have had the necessary training and experience which is required to help with relationship difficulties. In many instances, turning to someone other than a qualified professional would be like the blind leading the blind.
6. My partner is the one who is causing all the problems, so I don’t need counselling.
Relationships revolve around interactions between individuals, and often problems occur as the individuals themselves change, when circumstances or perceptions of one another change or when people get stuck with perceptions which are no longer valid. Exploring these things together is usually the best way to discover and learn new ways of relating to one another and of being together. Even if your partner has significant problems, the best chance you have for resolving them is to look at the the issue together.
7. Attending relationship counselling sessions would be embarrassing.
Counsellors are bound by rules of confidentiality and so will not discuss you or your problems with others. The only people who will know that you are attending relationship counselling sessions are the ones that you choose to tell.
About the author Joseph Poullis is a Chartered Counselling Psychologist and the Clinical Director of The Psychotherapy Clinic ( http://www.thepsychotherapy.co.uk ) in Harley Street and Snowsfields in London. Joseph and his team offer extensive expertise in relationship counselling for couples and families, as well as a range of therapeutic services aimed at helping individuals, couples and families to deal with emotional and psychological difficulties.
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