Counseling is a type of talking therapy that allows a person to talk about their problems and feelings in a confidential and dependable environment. A counselor is trained to listen with empathy (by putting themselves in your shoes). They can help you deal with any negative thoughts and feelings you have.

Sometimes the term "counseling" is used to refer to talking therapies in general, but counseling is also a type of therapy in its own right.

Other psychological therapies include psychotherapycognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), and relationship therapy, which could be between members of a family, a couple, or work colleagues.

Read more about other psychological therapies.


What is counseling used for?

Talking therapies such as counseling can be used to help with many different mental health conditions, including:


How counseling can help

Counselling aims to help you deal with and overcome issues that are causing emotional pain or making you feel uncomfortable. It can provide a safe and regular space for you to talk and explore difficult feelings. The counselor is there to support you and respect your views. They won't usually give advice but will help you find your insights into and understanding of your problems.

Counseling can help you:

  • cope with a bereavement or relationship breakdown

  • cope with redundancy or work-related stress

  • explore issues such as sexual identity

  • deal with issues preventing you achieving your ambitions

  • deal with feelings of depression or sadness, and have a more positive outlook on life

  • deal with feelings of anxiety, helping you worry less about things

  • understand yourself and your problems better

  • feel more confident

  • develop a better understanding of other people's points of view

Counseling can often involve talking about difficult or painful feelings and, as you begin to face them, you may feel worse in some ways. However, with the help and support of your therapist, you should gradually start to feel better.

In most cases, it takes several sessions before the counseling starts to make a difference, and a regular commitment is required to make the best use of the therapy.

What to expect from counseling

During your counseling sessions, you'll be encouraged to express your feelings and emotions. By discussing your concerns with you, the counselor can help you gain a better understanding of your feelings and thought processes, as well as identifying ways of finding your solutions to problems.

It can be a great relief to share your worries and fears with someone who acknowledges your feelings and can help you reach a positive solution.

Counseling can take place:

  • face to face

  • individually or in a group

  • over the phone

  • by email

  • using a specialized computer program

You may be offered counseling as a single session, as a short course of sessions over a few weeks or months, or as a longer course that lasts for several months or years.

Trusting your counselor

A good counselor will focus on you and listen without judging or criticizing you. They may help you find out about how you could deal with your problems, but they shouldn't tell you what to do.

For counseling to be effective, you need to build a trusting and safe relationship with your counselor. If you feel that you and your counselor aren't getting on, or that you're not getting the most out of your sessions, you should discuss this with them, or you can look for another counselor.

Who provides counseling?

As counseling involves talking about sensitive issues and revealing personal thoughts and feelings, your counselor should be experienced and professionally qualified.

Different healthcare professionals may be trained in counseling or qualified to provide psychological therapies. These include:

  • counselors ‐ trained to provide counseling to help you cope better with your life and any issues you have

  • clinical and counseling psychologists ‐ healthcare professionals who specialize in assessing and treating mental health conditions using evidence-based psychological therapies

  • psychiatrists ‐ qualified medical doctors who've received further training in diagnosing and treating mental health conditions

  • psychotherapists ‐ similar to counselors, but they've usually received more extensive training; they're also often qualified applied psychologists or psychiatrists

  • cognitive behavioral psychotherapists‐ may come from a variety of professional backgrounds and have received training in cognitive behavior therapy; they should be registered and accredited with the British Association for Behavioural & Cognitive Psychotherapies (BABCP)

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As kids we were always encouraged to reach out to career counsellors and as we grew older we were familiarized with a more recently accep...


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