It's not all just talk
In my many years on this planet, I have been to counselling on three separate occasions; when I left The RAF, when I got divorced and when my brother-in-law died.
Why I am writing this is not to tell you the details of my problems, that’s my business, but rather the different types of counselling that I encountered and what I felt was a good fit for me.
There are so many to choose from, how do you find the right one?
My first experience was group counselling. We met up twice a week for group chats at the Basildon University Hospital.
This wasn’t for me. There was about ten of us, in a small room with two counsellors, talking about whatever we felt like. We were meant to help each other, with the guidance of the counsellors.
What we did a lot of the time, I felt, was sit there in awkward silence, looking at each other. When we did speak, it seemed to me that the counsellors always got the wrong end of the stick and gave advise that I thought was stupid.
This was not everyone’s view, however. One guy stated that he just lived to go to these sessions to get him through the rest of the week.
My next encounter was what I would call ‘traditional’ counselling. These were one-to-one sessions, where I would sit and talk to a counsellor and he would make comments, but mostly listen.
Again, not for me. Talking to somebody about my problems has never been an issue for me. Spending money talking to somebody that gave me no, or I felt, unhelpful advice, didn’t work.
I started to realise I needed somebody that was interactive. Someone who would stick their necks out and give me some constructive advice.
So the third time I needed help, I went to a psychiatrist who specialised in a technique called EMDR.
EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing, uses bilateral sensory input, such as side-to-side eye movement or alternate tapping on the hands, while thinking of personal distressing events. The psychiatrist guides you through the events and emotions, putting them finally to rest.
Although it sounds made up and very odd, it changed my life. This is what I needed. All those events that had haunted me all my life were gone. Well, not gone, but they became memories without an emotional response.
Looking back, I wish I had found this EMDR sooner. But I got there in the end and that is all that matters.
If you feel you need help, try and think about what it is you want from counselling. What do you want them to do for you? Do you need somebody to talk to? Do you want to try and sort things out for yourself with some guidance? Or do you need somebody that is more proactive?
Then start looking. I found out about EMDR from talking to a nurse, which I followed up with a website search and finally chats to counsellors.
If, after starting a counselling session, you then find that it’s not working for you, don’t be afraid to stop and find something else.
Never give up.