Counselling is not comfortable

Sometimes I hear people say that they are not ready yet to confront their deepest and most troubling emotions. This sometimes comes to their awareness just at the moment that they sense that those emotions have come up, out of the depths, and could spill over. For years those emotions have been kept under wraps – perhaps disguised by other emotions which feel easier to handle, or which have been allowed by their family of origin whereas the troublesome emotion has been dis-allowed (anger instead of scare, for instance, or perhaps sadness instead of anger).

I am humbled by how clients manage to eventually find the courage to confront the authentic emotion when it looms. By allowing it, so much is at risk – in terms of retribution, rejection, and even abandonment. Not to mention having to deal with the equally powerful racket feelings which emerge in an attempt to control the authentic emotion. For the therapist, the responsibility is enormous as they hold, not just the authentic emotion as it emerges (perhaps especially difficult with anger if the counsellor becomes the focus of the rage) but of the client and the therapeutic relationship.

Supervision is the obvious source of reality testing and affirmation (in my experience a much needed combination of support) but self care is paramount to an ability to maintain a healthy perspective. Transference is powerful and the counsellor is human too.

I have a small practice, and, although usually on the edge of a shortage of work, in essence this extra aspect to some of the work is well served by having the time to spend on grounding myself.

It is very important to acknowledge that this talk of “authentic’ and ‘racket’ feelings can sound judgemental and even dismissive – reducing the cover-up feeling so that it doesn’t matter, and the only feelings which do matter are those which are ‘real’.  I don’t like jargon, but sometimes there is no clearer way of describing what happens. But this is hard to take when you have spent years honing what emotions feel ‘ok’.

2 Responses to “Counselling is not comfortable”

  1. Joe Sheridan says:

    I love that piece. It is very well put, especially the first two paragraphs. Have that on your flyers and you will no longer be on the edge of shortage of work.

  2. Tshidi Botshelo-Rankoa says:

    I agree with you completely.
    How challenging is it then to help the client to unmask the primary emotions in a counselling session?

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