Understand the past, embrace the present, enjoy the future

BACP Senior Accredited Counsellor

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Counselling and the art of Ambiguity.

Blog Entries

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence

Two road diverged in a wood, and I –

I took the one less travelled by

And that has made all the difference"

Robert Frost

When someone mentioned to me that they were looking forward to the ambivalent month of May I must have given a puzzled response.  My colleague continued with a broad smile to think out loud that in the month to come, they may do this or they may do that.  Eventually the penny dropped as to what they were talking about.  My only excuse is that it had been a long day!

So maybe I will and maybe I will not. Indecision, ambivalence and uncertainty can find a ready presence in the counselling room. People come into the therapy room for many reasons. Sometimes this will be to find a new way to look at an ongoing personal issue where there are different options and decision making is difficult.

Those issues can be life changing around relationships, work and careers.  Relationships can create challenges of whether to begin, to end or just persist. Career change can evoke concerns as to where to work and whether to take the new role. Do we move and explore anew or just remain forever in the same location. These and a myriad of other issues come up time and time again in life.

On many occasions we will be sure in our own minds as to how to go forward. We will have our own understanding of what is the right decision to make and we will act on that.  On other occasions we may be less certain. Friends, relatives and neighbours can often be quick to provide advice. That may prove really helpful but there are also those other occasions when what is needed is not advice but a new way of hearing our own voice.

Those significant others of friends and family might hold a firm view about the particular issue and you. In seeing your indecision they may want to quickly march you to a decision point where things can be resolved but that may not always be the best place to stand.  Sometimes it may be sensible to choose to delay, wait and think. And that can be where counselling and therapy can prove useful.

It is not of course that counsellors do not have a view or that psychotherapists are somehow switched off from the world.  We care for our clients. We may have an intuitive feel as to what is right for them and we are concerned that things work out as the client would want. We will have a view but perhaps we work particularly hard to mask it. 

That professional distancing means that as therapists we can be just a little more objective.  When the relationship is a professional one it may be a little easier to contain those comments and encourage the client to continue to explore new option and ideas before coming to that decision.

But we should always make clear that this therapeutic support and help may come with a price.  And in considering issues of cost, I do not necessarily mean financial cost. The price paid can go beyond the sessional fees and the opportunity cost of time spent in the therapy room. Therapy should always come with a general warning about consequences.

As therapists our contribution can sometimes be a disruptive one.  Sometimes that extra reflection and that deeper insight can result in an unexpected decision. Clients may then move to a choice of action which will not be the one expected by others.

Clients may use the therapy room as a place to build additional resolve from which to then go on and take risks in opting for the decision that others have been praying they would avoid.  The decision to end the relationship, the decision to take that new post in a fledgling organisation or the decision to just walk away to that other place wherever that may be.  The decision to change. Change creates ripples. And ripples can spread out to very distant locations.

I introduced this note by quoting from the New England poet Robert Frost.  That final verse of his evocative poem The Road not Taken is preceded by lines which read;

‘Yet knowing how way leads on to way

I doubted if I should ever come back’

Occasionally the road that is chosen is not the one others were expecting the client to walk. And that choice can have consequences. There can be concern, bewilderment and sadness. But perhaps it was simply time for change and for that decision to be taken.

Sometimes things can be just about okay until therapy provides a sense of clarity which then demands action. And that action may lead on to unexpected places. Way leads on to way. And sometime we never do come back.

So that is a health warning about therapy and disruption to the status quo. Something that you may wish to consider when thinking about future counselling.  

And now? Well right now this is May. Perhaps this a time when you may wish to…..?        




Geoff Boutle

added on 1st May 2016

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