Understand the past, embrace the present, enjoy the future

BACP Senior Accredited Counsellor

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Counselling – A room with a view

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There are many different ways of helping clients work through the myriad of issues which can be brought into the therapy room.  

Sometimes counselling work will have a wider focus on the client’s general emotional well-being.  Alternatively there may be a concentration on one particular concern particularly if the client is aware of a specific emotional reaction which is causing much immediate difficulty.

There can also be different options for working with the same issue.  Much will depend on what approach is likely to be the most effective for each individual. 

One example of this could be with the various forms that anger management work can take.   This can include experiential group work where feelings may be brought to the surface encouraged by the interactions and dynamics within the group. Those feelings, emotions and reactions can then be acknowledged and openly considered.

An alternative to group work is one to one sessions with a therapist. If anger management work is conducted within a framework of individual meetings, the confidentiality of the counselling room can encourage clients to look in a more structured way at developing a deeper understanding of why their anger occurs, how the rage is triggered and then to work at containing the intolerance that may be bubbling close to the surface.

Amongst the different techniques used to assist the process of understanding and then bringing about change is one which focuses on the language that we speak. This involves trying to improve control over the language that is employed in discussions or arguments.

For example we may look at the use of the seemingly commonplace pronoun ‘you’.  This very simple word can sometimes be heard by others as an aggressive word which inadvertently inflames a situation. The comment ‘why did you do that’ is likely to invoke a different and perhaps more defensive response than would the use of the less aggressive phrase ‘I wonder what has happened here’.

This approach acknowledges that despite the existence of a common language there can be different interpretations of exactly what has been said and what a word means for each of us. There is a similar situation with regard to how expressions or a facial grimace can be regarded. Sometimes this may just depend upon our personal frame of reference on the day when ‘it’ occurs, when the grimace is presented to us or when the word is spoken.

These thoughts sit with me as I write in my office. I regard myself as fortunate to work in a pleasant location. I am close to a modern bustling town and yet my office is situated in an old listed building in a peaceful pastoral setting. 

Today as I glance out of the window in what is now midsummer, the plentiful rain has ensured that everywhere looks verdant and green. The view has the potential to relax and to ease. Yet for another person there could easily be another interpretation of the view. As this is very much mid-summer, someone in a very different frame of mind may just see the rain with grey clouds and feel deflated that the sun is not shining.

Perhaps those alternative interpretations of words, actions or the world around us can illustrate the potential impact on our emotional well-being, of the choices we make when deciding how to reflect on what lies before us.  

A contemporary example of this variation could be with regard to the interpretation of the result of the recent referendum. I recently listened to one speaker on the radio expressing in a sombre tone, much concern about recent events with reference to the referendum result and the political changes at the top of the two main parties. On the same programme I have heard others expressing a sense of very real excitement and optimism over what was seen as a new start with an opportunity to reassert a sense of independence whilst still remaining part of the international world.

I have my own view on that particular issue as no doubt you do but that discussion is not for these notes. Instead I would prefer to focus here on that freedom to choose. 

At any instant the view before us may be captured in our mind almost as a photograph with a set panorama and a meaning. That may be a real time physical view or an introspective reflection of our emotional world. We can choose how to interpret and understand that panorama.  We can decide whether to be uplifted or downcast; and whether to be moved to tears or just moved to yawn. 

We see what we are able to see. The view from the window may be fixed for now but we retain the freedom to review, reframe and recast what we see ahead of us. What is important is not so much the detail of what we see but the way in which we decide to interpret it.

And that goes for all the different aspects of our lives from relationships to work and family issues as well as my view of the rolling Hampshire countryside and perhaps even through to that referendum result.

Yet sometimes this notion of a flexible viewpoint can be easier to talk about than to actually experience. If you find that this change of approach to what lies ahead seems to be too difficult to achieve, if your view appears stuck and too rigid to alter, then perhaps it is time to come and talk with a therapist or counsellor.

The time spent in the therapy room could help you to flex that view, consider things anew and develop a portfolio of alternative scenarios. This may encourage you to consider how you really wish to see things, whether those issues, events or relationships lie in the past, present or the future.




Geoff Boutle

added on 1st August 2016

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