Counselling does not mean that the therapist has readymade solutions or secret tips to offer. Psychotherapy investigates the causes of client’s problems and helps the client to find ways to a satisfactory solution. Sometimes it means that some thinking, behaviour or relationship patterns have become obsolete or do more harm than good. Sometimes the therapist helps finding the inner strengths and courage to face the difficulties in one’s life. Of just help to clarify one’s mind by bringing in another perspective.
There are many situations where counselling can help – problems related to self-esteem or in relationships, puzzles in rising children or at work. Sometimes people come because of stress, grief or trauma, sometimes to avoid those. And sometimes people just want somebody neutral to talk yourself out to.
I believe that our happiness and relation to life depends less on the events and meetings happening to us and more on how we perceive those events. What value we assign to those. This perception in turn depends on the lenses we are used to when viewing our world. Leaving aside the few completely joyful or tragic incidents, there are generally many viewpoints one can take in evaluating any events, relationships, people, situations life brings every day.
Psychotherapy enables exploring what experiences have shaped our perception of the world and ask why we react on life events in a way we do. Therapists can help becoming aware of the thinking and feeling processes and learning alternative ways when needed.
The world around us is uncontrollable and very difficult to change. It is possible, however, to change your lenses and make your world a brighter and cosier place to be. Both subjectively and often objectively. To the people in deep mess with their lives or relationships the situation often seems inescapable. There is, however, a way out from most of the situations we encounter but that requires a decision to be made. Not making the decision means suffering (to continue).
In therapy, you analyse choice between three options:
1. Leaving the situation.
2. Changing the situation.
3. Changing your attitude.
Leaving. There are situations where the only way to avoid suffering is to leave. Some relationships are so devastating that continuing is either futile or outright destructive. Leaving a harassing relationship behind can be healing even though initially it may feel like your whole world is going to collapse. There are many situations where leaving is impossible. Or even unnecessary.
Changing the situation requires inventiveness. Usually people who are stuck cannot see the ways out. Family therapy says that a change in one person will lead to a change in the whole system. Sometimes a fresh look at the situation will shed light on the possibilities that have been hidden or covered by redundant thought patterns.
Changing the attitude. If you are not able to leave the situation, and the situation cannot be changed, it is possible to change your attitude. Yourself. Your thoughts and perspective. Fortunately, we have moved away from the dogma that seeking help is a sign of weakness and folly. Because – on the contrary – asking for help is a sign of maturity, strength and a sincere desire to become smarter, to grow.
Sometimes all three options are available, sometimes only one. Sometimes it seems that none would work. In most cases the choice is difficult but it must be made. Even when at the first glance all the options look impossible. Not choosing leads to the fourth option: suffering. We cannot change what happened in the past, but we can change our attitude and feelings about these events.
It is quite liberating to investigate in psychotherapy the sources of sadness, anger, fear, jealousy, apathy, guilt or shame. Maybe it is time to rewrite your narrative, to bring in fresh energy, joy, love, freedom, lightness, gratitude and learn to forgive, to take life playfully. And get rid of the stories that have become obsolete. Human character can shape destiny. I believe that people can change their character – if they really want to – and therefore change their destiny.
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