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BACP Senior Accredited Counsellor

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Summer Time & the Counselling Room

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Despite the recent cold weather, summer is definitely on the way and that is official. The familiar ritual which will now be taking place in homes around the country of putting forward the clocks by an hour to British summertime, confirms the change of season irrespective of the temperature outside.

This task which grows exponentially as every new electronic device seems to come with a clock embedded, heralds the arrival of longer lighter evenings The twenty four hours of each day of course remains the same but the additional daylight does seem to stretch the length of each day. That invites us to consider how to use this additional bonus time.  Some of us will see the extra hours as creating an opportunity for working away long into the evening in the garden or home. Others will greet the summer in a relaxed style, using the time in a thoughtful, or perhaps even a slightly more hedonistic way.

In many respects that reflection on how to use the additional hours of daylight mirrors the different ways in which time can be spent in the counselling room.  Within therapy there is again a choice to be made as to what to do.  From my experience there is a divide between those come into therapy because of a specific issue or concern to be resolved and others who take a deep breath and then walk into the counselling room because of a wish to explore and develop their emotional self.

That division is also reflected in the diverse ways in which clients wish to work.  For some there needs to be a focus, a clear direction and an awareness of the planned path to be followed session by session. Others may want to use the time and space in a more unstructured way.  Neither of these approaches are in any way right or wrong. There are simply differences to be experienced and choices to be made.

Different counselling strategies can however perhaps inadvertently lead the client in one specific direction or another.  Some see modalities such as CBT as drawing on a medical model. Emotional conditions are often pathologised.  There is a condition to be cured. Something within the emotional world is wrong and needs to be fixed.

That concern may be voiced by the client who sees the extent of the current depression as a feeling which is sitting outside of what seems normal. The degree of obsessive behaviour or thought, the increasing level of stress or the frightening extent of the recurring panic attack may have reached dysfunctional levels and be impacting on the quality of life. An immediate solution is sought and for some with those conditions, therapies such as CBT, Solution Focussed Therapy or a similar approach may help in easing the symptoms.

The directive element of that work may not sit well however with the individual who wishes to undertake a longer and more contemplative review of their emotional world.  The client who is looking at issues such as alienation, of coming to terms with loss or of dealing with an existential loneliness, may want to work in a more reflective way.  For those clients who are looking to understand as well as change, other forms of talking therapy such as psychodynamic counselling or existential counselling may provide a better way of approaching these concerns.

The strategies we follow in the counselling room should fit with the individual needs of each client. What is of key importance is the willingness of the therapist to hear and understand the various drivers which have brought the client into the counselling room. Sometimes that ability to hear may be inhibited if the counsellor approaches the time to be spent in the counselling room, with a very fixed idea of how the client needs to work and the specific therapeutic approach to be used. From my experience, it is only once we have been able to talk together about what is happening, that we can start to think about how best to work and how best to spend the time together in the therapy room.

The advent of summertime provides an opportunity to do something extra, something different with our time. The same is true of the time spent in the counselling room. Exactly how that time is used depends on where we are as individuals and what is happening in our lives.  

There is though perhaps one very clear difference.  Counselling is a voluntary act and something that we choose to do, often after much careful thought. Those changes that we have to make with regard to our clocks are obligatory. It is a chore and a task that we have to complete or be faced with much embarrassment when we turn up for work or for that appointment an hour late!  But at least it does herald those light evenings.

Enjoy the summer time – when it really arrives!





Geoff Boutle

added on 1st April 2013

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