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Why Counselling Isn’t Always The Answer

15 August 2021

This post might not be something everyone agrees with or wants to hear. But as someone who went through counselling as a teenager, it’s important to me that I share my experience and why I don’t think it’s always the answer. Just incase this helps anyone else.

There are topics and opinion that are frowned upon. Topics which make others uncomfortable and some things that could be classed as too personal to share. Well this is going to touch on all three and I’m not even sorry about it.

It’s fair to say my teenager years were a rollercoaster. Like many, I had a lot of emotions and they weren’t always best placed. My friends were pretty good at being the stroppy teenagers our parents expected us to be. But there were some of us who didn’t act in the ‘usual’ way. Instead we would bottle it up, take it out in other ways than being stroppy – not always the best ways.

Then it would all become too much and we would burst. Which is why a friend in a year higher to me introduced me to our school counsellor.

Now I must admit that I was 15/16 at the time this was all happened. And despite the stereotype that girls are more mature than boys, I am very much aware that my experience as a teenager could be completely different to my experience as a 25 year old adult.

With mental health being much more understood, spoken about and widely accepted now; compared to a decade ago, I can imagine how counselling techniques and services have changed for the better. But counselling isn’t always the answer to your problems.

It’s a very common service and one offered by most schools, universities and the NHS. And there is no denying that it has helped many people – including though I know. But for one reason or another I was an anomaly.

My experience

When I was around 15 years old a friend convinced me to sign up to the free, anonymous counselling sessions at my school. Despite talking to my friends about the things I was going through I didn’t open up to anybody else. Not even my family so I thought that maybe this could help me.

I would go along every week or two for an hour. Usually skipping Spanish which is probably why I failed it, and I would speak with the lady about my life.

At first I thought it would be a good way to get things off my chest and relieve some of pressure. We would sit and talk about how I was feeling. What was going through my head and why I thought that might be. I always has hope that I would come out of each session feeling at least a little bit better.

But my counsellor had this wonderful way of dragging up all the things I really didn’t want to talk about. Which left me leaving the sessions feeling a hell of a lot worse. This is probably a standard technique in counselling to get to the route of the problem or the cause of your feelings. But as a 15 year old in the mist of taking her GCSE’s, this didn’t exactly help.

I would go back to my classroom for lunch and just not speak to anybody because of the way I was feeling. It would make me think about the things that were troubling me even more. In result make me feel worse and the circle would start again.

But I carried on going to the sessions until I moved schools to do my A Levels. Because when it’s free is very hard to get out of. You don’t have the excuse of it’s too expensive and I can’t afford it anymore. There is also the fear that everyone will think you’re in denial when you say you’re ok, and don’t need the help anymore. As ultimately you need that O.K from the mental health professional to let you leave.

Thinking back to the little time I did spend with our school counsellor it’s made me realise just how strange the concept is. There was nothing about sitting in a small, dark room with weird candle-style lighting; with a person I didn’t know, talking about my problems that made me feel A-OK.

Although the saying goes that only you can fix your problems, I always felt like my counsellor did nothing. She never tried to help me fix the things I was talking about and was more interested in dragging up what made me feel like this in the first place. Creating this circle of ultimately – making me feel pretty crap.

Talking can help

Now I am not oblivious to the fact that talking about your problems, getting things off your chest – no matter who to can really help. That’s why so many people choose counselling, or vent to their friends or family, or even someone behind the bar.

But this doesn’t mean that counselling is the way forward. And I wanted to share my experience to help anyone else feeling the same thing realise that it’s ok if counselling isn’t for you.

For me, it wasn’t until I started opening up to those close to me that I actually started to feel a lot better. Of course it’s awkward at first because you don’t know what to say and they don’t know how to respond. Especially when mental health still isn’t as widely spoken about as it should be. And nobody has a manual on these topics and things. We’re all just trying our best to help each other in the only ways we know how.

Counselling is a great free service on the NHS and is a great option if you feel like that can’t talk to those close to you – which was why I started in the first place. But how can a stranger really care for you? They haven’t known you for any longer than an hour a week. This person doesn’t know what makes you smile or cry. And realistically they don’t know anything accept what you tell them.

Whether it’s your family or friends or your partner. They are your real support. Although they may not know what to say or what to do, they know you – and that’s what can really make all the difference.

If you’ve tried counselling and it’s not working for you then try opening up to those around you. Educate them on the situation and you never know they might surprise you.

If you do feel like you need someone to speak to though you can find services here.

7 Comments

Lauren Curr says:

Thank you for this! I didn’t get along with counselling and despite all that’s going on, have felt pressured to go back several times and made to feel crazy and like it’s my fault for not having worked. I’m glad I’m not just strange and this is helping me accept there are other ways that may be better for me. In contrast, I’m so sorry it didn’t work out for you and hope you’ve found a better alternative x

Emmi Bowles says:

In theory the idea of talking to people about whatever it is that is going on in your life does work. It’s just about who you talk to and how they react that matters. Sometimes you need that personal support rather than a stranger who’s job is to just listen.

Averil says:

I’m a counsellor, and you’re so right in that it’s not for everybody (or at least, not every client and I are going to be right for each other). A huge amount of the positive effects from counselling come from a good rapport between client and counsellor, and if you don’t click with someone you can’t force it. My advice is always to shop around for a counsellor if you don’t feel a connection within the first couple of sessions. Also, a small dark candle-lit room sounds terrifying..!
Great suggestion to open up to those closest to you if you feel able, and glad it worked for you, it sounds like you have lovely friends 🙂

Aimee Louise says:

This post is so beautifully written & so honest.

Although I am not a counsellor, my job role involves people opening up to me on a 1:1 basis about very personal issues and matters for them. And yes, some of the people I work with find this easier than others.

Like I said, i’m no counsellor but if there is any advice you could give to me as a worker sitting on the other side of the table to help someone who felt how you did back in school please let me know!

I always encourage the people I work with to open up to family & friends as I think this itself can be so helpful as you say!

Thank you Emmi 🙌🏼

Emmi Bowles says:

I know that in counselling situations you can’t really offer your own opinion on the situation or give them answers but just give them something. Tell them how some people find it easier to talk to friends, or to write it all down. Help them find what it is that’s going to help them in the end. It might not be you but you can help lead them there.

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