Most of us have thought about whether counseling would be helpful at one time or another, but probably feel a bit intimidated by the idea of looking into actually finding a counselor to talk to. Sometimes the most important message that the counselor has to give clients isn’t said in so many words, but it’s simply that “You’re OK.”
Researchers who study the evidence for the effectiveness of psychotherapy have consistently found pretty much the same thing: It doesn’t matter so much what approach your therapist uses; what matters is the quality of the working relationship. Feeling heard and understood comes first, followed by having the opportunity to express your feelings and feel safe doing so. Lastly comes problem solving and the actual plans for change.
I try to impress this on my students as I help them to learn counseling skills. Helping the client feel heard and understood is the first task, and once that happens, insight and change become much easier. People generally know what needs to be done, with a little help from the therapist, once they feel able to pause and take stock of their feelings and thoughts.