Thursday, 7 March 2013

In the counsellor's chair

Sorelle White, a Powys based counsellor, talks to us at Powys Mental Health about what therapy is like from the other side of the room – the counsellor’s chair.

Where do you work at the moment?

I work one day a week at Ponthafren Association in Newtown. There’s a fantastic team of counsellors there and it’s a free and accessible service. I also offer sessions for individuals at my private practice in Newtown. Previously I’ve worked at Mid Powys Mind and Wrexham Mind.

Where did you train?

I studied here in Newtown at Coleg Powys. There is a series of courses from Level 1 – 4, with Level 4 qualifying you to practice. I know a lot of people who have studied the Levels 1 & 2 counselling skills and found it really useful both in personal and professional life. I would definitely recommend it.

We mentioned the counsellor’s chair, actually what’s your chair like?

Aha! Joking apart, that’s a really good question because I’m sure people worry that behind that closed door the counsellor might sit towering over them in an enormous chair or even make them lie on a couch. I really don’t know of anywhere that that happens. In reality the counsellor’s chair and the clients chair are usually exactly the same deliberately, so you are meeting the client on equal terms. If they want to lie down and have a nap though, it would be fine by me but that hasn’t happened to me yet!

So what can you tell us about the counselling experience?

Well overall it’s incredibly humbling. It’s a huge step for a lot of people to come and meet a stranger and talk about their personal thoughts and feelings. I feel that my job, when I first meet them is to put them at their ease as best I can. It’s ironic that some people see going to counselling as a sign of weakness because in my experience when the person first walks through that door, it’s an act of intense bravery.

So what actually happens in a session?

There are many different types of counselling available. I work in a Person-Centred way which is a general approach that can address a wide range of problems. It involves listening to each client and understanding and accepting them for who they are. Also gently reflecting back to them the verbal and non verbal signals you’re picking up. For many clients this may be the first time they have felt truly heard without judgement or criticism. As a result, they start to see their situation from a wider perspective and explore their own ideas for moving forward. That’s the magic bit, when you see that shift start to happen.

It sounds very simplistic but it takes discipline to stay right with the client in their unique world and not let your own opinions interfere. At the same time you need to be aware of any practical or ethical issues and bring the session to a safe close on time.

Different people suit different types of therapy. Some may want more focus on goal setting for example. I would recommend the Itsgoodtotalk website if people want to find out more. If you don’t get on with one individual therapist or type of therapy, do try something or someone else.

Thank you Sorelle for talking to us!

Sorelle White (Dip Couns. / MBACP) runs Blue Skies Therapy, offering one-to-one counselling sessions in Newtown.

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