Counselling can help people overcome emotional difficulties. The overall aim is to discuss ways of living life in a more satisfying and resourceful way. During a session, the patient’s fears and anxieties are explored together with the counsellor.
The following points may be looked at:
■ What is causing the patient’s emotional disturbance?
■ What are the patient’s expectations of counselling?
■ What are their choices in respect of the presenting problem?
The therapist must honour any issue the patient chooses to bring to the session in a non-judgemental confidential environment. This empowers individuals to look at their lives and make changes as they see fit.
It is not the counsellor’s role to be directive and to give instructions; the choice is entirely up to the patient. This is a person-centered counselling approach which can help with many problems, including anxiety and depression. Some patients may choose to review historic material in an attempt to understand why they are having difficulties and what exactly has led them to therapy.
The loss of a loved one is without doubt one of life’s most traumatic events. The rawness of grief and the accompanying emotions can at times feel overwhelming. Patients undergoing bereavement counselling are given the opportunity to explore the impact their bereavement has had on them. It is not uncommon for feelings of guilt to arise after a death; in the session the definition of guilt is examined.
Discussions may also deal with how continued negative thinking has an adverse impact on mental wellbeing. Grieving is a normal process. It is a testament to the love felt for the person who has died. In time, the acute sadness does begin to recede. Acknowledging and exploring this in therapy can help an individual adjust to life without their loved one.
Counselling support can be extremely helpful for people affected by cancer. This group of patients also includes family and friends. The impact of a cancer diagnosis and the uncertainty it brings can cause immense emotional distress. Families often try to protect each other and avoid conversations with the cancer patient for fear of causing more stress.
Many individuals experience anxiety at the prospect of a cancer recurrence; in this instance we focus on how worry will not influence outcome. Strategies for developing strength and resilience are also looked at, which may include signposting for some complementary therapy.
It is an enormous privilege to support and stand alongside people at a time in their lives when they are trying to make sense of their emotions and concerns. This is where talking therapy can be most helpful, to identify feelings and explore them with a professional therapist who has no judgement or agenda.
All human beings have the desire to be happy and can overcome suffering, they must be treated with compassion, this is any counsellor’s belief.
By Teresa Hughes
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Teresa Hughes is a person-centered counsellor and bereavement therapist working at the Hospital Particular do Algarve.
Member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy