What is counselling?

Counselling, also used interchangeably with therapy, is a confidential space where clients speak with a trained professional about their thoughts and feelings. Therapists or counsellors will develop a client’s understanding of their emotions, behaviours, and feelings so that they may develop or better understand themselves.

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    What happens in counselling

    There are many different forms of therapy that may be employed during a counselling session, and certain therapists will often specialise in a specific field or technique. 


    Regardless of the type of therapy used in counselling sessions, most will follow the same setup. Clients (unlike psychiatry, people who attend counselling sessions are not referred to as “patients”) will attend regular sessions with a therapist for sessions lasting 45 – 60 minutes. How often these sessions occur will be determined between the client and the counsellor depending on the client’s needs and circumstances.

    Counselling comes in many forms

    How are counselling sessions structured?

    Sessions will often be one-on-one, but there are certain therapies that will involve family, a partner, or be held in a group session. Most sessions will be held at the therapist’s office or a clinic, though some will take place at home or, as is becoming more popular in the wake of the pandemic, via telephone or web call.
    therapy helps thousands of people

    Counselling and therapy can be performed individually, in a group, or with a partner

    Most counselling sessions will follow the same pattern but may vary depending on the type of therapy being undertaken. During the client’s time, they will discuss and explore their feelings and emotions with their counsellor and work towards understanding any particularly troubling situations or emotions they may have. 

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    Therapy can cover a wide range of issues

    What will we talk about in therapy?

    The therapist will be impartial and nonjudgmental, using guided conversation and exercises to help the client get to the root of their issue or to understand themselves better.

    What the client discusses in their session is completely up to them and the therapist will often only ask targeted questions if something pertinent arises. Common topics that clients will discuss in counselling sessions include:


    many issues that present themselves in adulthood have links to childhood experience


    Many of the current issues clients face will be linked to the trauma they have experienced


    family, friends, partners, colleages, etc


    behaviours the client possesses that they find difficult or that are causing issues in their lives

    Knowing how counselling works can help you prepare

    How does counselling start?

    There are many different forms of therapy and each will operate in a slightly unique way. However, most sessions will include some of the same principles and practices when starting out in order to get the most out of a client’s time.

    Meeting your therapist

    The first session a client attends with a new therapist should be seen as a way to get to know one another. This is important for not only the therapist, as they will need to understand any issues the client would like to focus on, but also for the client to understand more about their chosen counsellor and their background. 

    It is a long-held misconception that a client will have to stick to one therapist in order to get results. In fact, they may go through several therapists on their journey and the introduction stage is a great chance to find out whether the client and counsellor are a good fit for one another.

    Find out what you need help with

    Part of the introduction process may involve an initial assessment from your therapist to better understand the issues the client is facing. This may come in the form of a written questionnaire, a brief interview between client and counsellor, or the therapist simply asking for the client’s story as they see it.

    This can often be an important step as it gives the counsellor a better understanding of how the client sees themselves and the issues they are facing and can help guide future sessions.

    commit to what your counselling will involve

    Another method some therapists will employ during the early stages of therapy is called ‘contracting’, whereby the counsellor and client agree on what sessions will involve and what outcomes they want to achieve.

    This allows the client to be honest about what they are looking for from counselling (though this may change over time) and makes the process of cancelling sessions more manageable should things not work out.