Advanced search

Mumsnet has not checked the qualifications of anyone posting here. If you need help urgently, please see our domestic violence webguide and/or relationships webguide, which can point you to expert advice and support.

What is counselling supposed to be like?

(64 Posts)
Miso104 Wed 16-Mar-16 18:41:38

I have had yet another bad experience with a counsellor. I'm beginning to wonder if my expectations of what counselling should be like are wrong. This one didn't say anything, just let me ramble on until I felt awkward and then we sat in an even more awkward silence while the clock ticked. I eventually made my excuses and left. Cried all the way home. I thought they were supposed to help you focus your thoughts and explore your feelings? Am I wrong?

pocketsaviour Wed 16-Mar-16 18:59:55

It sounds like this counsellor (and others you have seen) were of the "let the client talk because I'm getting paid to do nowt" school of rubbish.

How did you find this counsellor? Did you "interview" them or anything before the first session? If they are listed on Yell I would certainly be leaving a frosty review!

As another wise poster (Atilla) says: Counsellors are like shoes; you need to find the right fit. It sounds to me like you need someone experienced and who takes a much more active approach to help you work through your problems in a safe and supportive environment.

Gabby99 Wed 16-Mar-16 19:24:10

Don't let this experience put you off OP. Can you ask your GP to recommend a good Counsellor ? My Counsellor spent the first session asking me questions and getting to know me. He asked me why I was there, what my goals were. Now, most sessions are focused on me doing the talking but if I have nothing to say, he will lead or guide me until I open up and then he can sit back and listen while I talk. We have a wonderful relationship, the trust has built up, I can talk to him about anything. You just need to find the right Counsellor. Keep trying, don't give up.

Emptynestx2 Wed 16-Mar-16 20:38:56

I agree don't be put off. A good friend of mine is a counsellor and she said that you have to find a good match for so,done to help you. There are also lots of different types of counselling. Would you prefer someone to direct you more? I had a very similar experience to you when my my mum was very sick and I left feeling totally fed up but currently trying again and it's better. Keep trying!

Miso104 Wed 16-Mar-16 21:45:33

I feel totally disheartened. I wouldn't waste my GPs time asking about counselling, they barely have enough resources to save people's lives let alone indulge my twaddle.
I feel like I'm having lots of false starts. This person I'm seeing now has all the right credentials and is very nice, but I feel like they aren't engaged in my case, bored even, and that makes it even harder to open up. I told them some pretty revealing stuff about myself and I was hoping for some guidance, but I got nothing. I feel like I'm wasting time and money and getting nowhere.

Belikethat Wed 16-Mar-16 21:52:00

I have tried counselling four times over the years and not got anything from it. I spent £40 on the last session and came away thinking I wish I had bought a new top.

I started a thread on here about what a waste of money it was and whilst some people were offended, others agreed with me. The general consensus was that you have to identify the type of counselling you want/need and find the right counsellor for you.

Joysmum Wed 16-Mar-16 22:16:35

I've had one good, one bad.

The bad one took over after the good one went on maternity leave.

She read my notes, she thought she knew me and could dictate. In the process she trampled all over 2 of my triggers, not being listened to and personal space.

Luckily by that time I'd found my voice to challenge her and get her hands off of me. I gave it one more go then didn't go back. I felt like a case study, not a person and I don't react well to being talked at.

Now I need to look at going private and I'm putting it off because of her.

The good one was good it even so, in the beginning it was hard. I had to learn to open up and let in feelings and past happenings is buried. That made me go backwards but I'd already been warned that's what needed to happen to work out how to move forwards. Initially however, I was given no insights or coping strategies and field VERY vulnerable. I'm glad I stuck with it though. Just need to find somebody else who is personable and less aloof in their manner.

Borisrules Wed 16-Mar-16 23:36:13

I've had 2 experiences- one was awful with silences described as above
The other was unbelievably helpful in getting me to see stuff that should have been blindingly obvious. The second experience was private. I looked around and picked someone I can thought might be a "fit"
It really does work

ravenmum Thu 17-Mar-16 05:26:20

I looked up local counsellors with proper qualifications then chose one from her photo: she looked nice. She has been really helpful.

My ex went to a "counsellor" recommended by a friend. After a few sessions I was supposed to go along to see if I would like to do couples counselling with her. She was unqualified, reeked of smoke and spent the session trying to construct a neat story that had nothing to do with my situation. Thank goodness I'd already met a decent counsellor and knew it didn't have to be that way.

A decent person knows you must be feeling desperate to be there and shouldn't let you leave feeling even more hopeless. Exhausted from all the hard work, perhaps.

But don't forget that you are the customer paying them. You can ask them about their method, what they think it will achieve, where they learned it. Then if they do not have anything to offer you can take your custom elsewhere.

stumblymonkey Thu 17-Mar-16 05:29:47

Do you know what sort of counsellor she says she is?

I avoid 'person centered' counsellors like the plague as they are exactly as you describe and it drives me nuts.

Personally I prefer psychotherapy (if you have a lot of stuff to deal with from over many years) or integrative (basically means they don't stick to any one theory and will use whatever tools it takes to help you).

What area of the country are you based in?

Miso104 Thu 17-Mar-16 08:46:21

I'm in an area where there are endless counsellors available. This one that I picked is a psychotherapist as well as a counsellor and I picked them because my issues are wide and varied. I guess I'm just reluctant to give up again with someone as I will probably just end up leaving things and not try again for another couple of years. I just wonder if the things I think are issues actually aren't? And that's why I never make any progress? The things I'm depressed about are just facts of life and I just need to get on with them?

FreeSpirit89 Thu 17-Mar-16 08:55:20

My counsellor is lovely! She lets me guide the sessions, I can talk to her about most things. I too ramble, but there's never silence. She will explain things to me.

That's how it should look, maybe ask for recommendations.

Miso104 Thu 17-Mar-16 09:03:16

See, I don't want to guide my sessions. That doesn't feel like anything more than writing a diary or talking to yourself in you head in the gym.

blueobsessive Thu 17-Mar-16 09:11:44

I felt like this for the first 4 sessions but then we clicked. After then I have found it to be very helpful. In the fourth session I raised with her that a. I wasn't sure what counselling should be like, but b. I had found the previous sessions allowed me to relive traumatic events worries just enough so they got a hold on me, but I did not feel better able to deal with, disengage from them/ slow the speed of the internal flywheel of jangles.

We then worked on a couple of techniques, and, dealt positively with one jangle area. Although at the time it felt like she was not doing much in those first sessions she was closely looking at how I thought / expressed things. This helped us 'click.'

One of the best things I have got from it is a feeling of taking ownership of life (jangles and all).

I'd suggest you do not suffer in silence. Address it, and if she is rubbish go elsewhere. If you have a sensible gp they might know of someone sensible locally. The consultation would be unlikely to take more than a couple of minutes. They'd be unlikely to think of you as grumbling- and if they do, it won't harm you. They'll be onto the next patient in no time.

Here endeth my sermon

queenoftheknight Thu 17-Mar-16 09:33:53

I have seen a few counsellors, and also have known people who work as counsellors

The two people I have known who are counsellors are appalling human beings and I shudder to think what damage they may have caused vulnerable people. It would make your hair curl if I went into detail, but appalling violations of privacy and boundaries pretty much covers it.

Out of the four I have seen for myself, three have been excellent. Two were time limited NHS ones. One private one seemed to be completely obsessed with alcohol...probably HER problem, who knows.

The last one I have been with for two years now. I was badly abused as a child by my mother mainly, but others happily joined in too. My current therapist is an expert on abuse recovery, dissociation, etc, so just right for me.

By the time I found her, I had enough insight into my own issues to know what I was looking for.


AimUnder Thu 17-Mar-16 09:36:15

My counsellor is lovely. If you're in London give me a shout, and I can give you her contact details. She is on the NHS and you can refer yourself to her organisation.

MarianneSolong Thu 17-Mar-16 09:38:57

I think there can be 'good' silence in counselling sessions.

We are very used - too used? - to filling our lives with noise and music and talk and various kinds of escape.

I think a good counsellor can give people space to let them feel what they're feeling. If that makes sense. Whereas a less good counsellor might rush in too quickly with questions or interpretations.

didyouwritethe Thu 17-Mar-16 09:48:54

Like queenoftheknight, I have known quite a few acquaintances who became psychotherapists. They are the most appalling people.

BunnyTyler Thu 17-Mar-16 10:13:30

I had an amazing psychologist/counsellor.

I rambled on through the constructed social mask that is my public persona; my rambling then went through a bit more of my real, more hidden feelings; then I had a brain & mind vomit phase where I let everything spew out. From that point I built back up again - pretty much rambling my way through to daylight.

The whole process took just over a year, and although at the time I didn't think she'd done much it would dawn on me a month or so later that she'd nudged me subtly and had made me confront and fix things myself(but with her 'support' always there) rather than them being fixed for me iyswim.

When I look back now I can see very clearly how she was actually doing very little tweaks to my mindset, rules & assumptions all very subtly - I've come out of it with a raft of new mental & emotional strategies.

A counsellor / psychotherapist has to be a good fit, but don't try and rush the agenda either - it has taken you years & years to get to this point, it is unlikely that you will be 'fixed' in a few weeks or months.

mumgointhroughtorture Thu 17-Mar-16 10:55:56

I finished my block of 8 counselling sessions yesterday and it was a complete waste of time. I might aswell have gone and sat on a park bench and chatted to anyone who sat beside me. She has put me forward for a group to gain confidence but that's it. She sat and listened , gave a few words of input and sent me on my way. What a waste of 8 hours lol !
I have no advice just to say another one here with a nodding dog experience .

Miso104 Thu 17-Mar-16 11:47:54

Nodding dog is the perfect description!
I feel so down today. I was hoping that I was reaching out for some help as I'm alone in all of this ( as I have been all my life with any crisis I've ever tackled). It just reinforces this idea I have that I don't matter and no one cares about me. Just zip on the smile and carry on.

I'm glad that it has worked for some of you.

And I'm sorry to hear of the terrible things that have lead you to need counselling too sad

TheDayIBroke Thu 17-Mar-16 15:27:09

Sorry to say, I'm another one with a negative experience of counselling. The counsellor had a sing-song, "soothing" voice, as if talking normally would cause some kind of aggression in the room. I wanted to scream at her "Stop! Talk to me like I'm a person!" She also offered no advice and I felt the sessions were fruitless. They didn't make me feel better, but worse, and I was irritated by her pacifying voice (which wasn't her proper voice, just her "counselling" voice).

I now talk to the dog - much cheaper, much more satisfying!

matthew1969 Thu 17-Mar-16 16:51:49

I'm sorry to hear about your bad experience with counselling.
I am a qualified counsellor and I would think that you had the misfortune to encounter a trainee counsellor, who was trying out listening skills.
I hope that you are not put off by this experience as counselling can be a very powerful tool when applied correctly.
I advertise on a site called counselling directory, to do this I had to provide them prof that I was qualified and insured to practice. they don't let trainees or con-people on their site.
I hope you find the counsellor you are looking for.

Miso104 Thu 17-Mar-16 17:22:16

Nope, they're not a trainee. They are a registered independent psychotherapist. I chose them because they looked qualified, not just some 'life coach' like Jez in Peep Show or someone who would recommend crystal healing and homeopathy. I wonder whether maybe what I'm looking for doesn't exist. I want someone to listen to my story, help me join the dots as to why I'm feeling the way I do and then point in the direction out of my pit of despair. Is that not what counselling is for?

KittyandTeal Thu 17-Mar-16 17:31:47

I agree for going with someone who does integrative practice.

I have had 3 counsellors, one was very helpful and let me ramble but directed me with some questions, she also 'explained' what was going on. I was dealing with specific past events and coming to terms with a few mh diagnoses.

My second wasn't terrible but wasn't great, I didn't click with her and she was a silence type.

My current counsellor is a specialist in bereavement (babies and children) but has helped me completely change myself. She listens, explains why I'm feeling some things/how others might feel too, assures me things are normal, challenges me. She also uses lots of techniques, not just talking but drawing/painting, playdough, modelling and she has a box or pebbly shit with sticks and stones and some kids toys. We also do 'role play' as in I speak to her as if she is someone else (often a pregnant lady who I found hard to deal with after my loss). It took me a while to get used to but once I threw myself into it I have got out so much.

It's really hard to have lots of negative experiences but please keep trying.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now