What is counselling?

Counselling means someone listens to you in a supportive way.

Why people have counselling

Many times in our lives, we all really feel we need someone to listen to us.

Being heard properly can be really important if you have cancer. You may find it difficult to deal with your diagnosis. And you may be feeling a bit lost amongst all the treatments and hospital appointments.

Your life may have been turned upside down

Most people feel very shocked when they are told they have cancer. It can turn your life upside down.

Things you can normally cope with may become more difficult. This includes things such as:

  • going to work
  • shopping
  • looking after children
  • socialising

Things in your life may feel as though they have less meaning for you.

Your intimate relationships might change because of changes in how you look and the way you feel about yourself. The stress you’re under may mean you can’t show your partner or children the love and attention you want.

Confused feelings

You might have confusing and upsetting feelings, such as:

  • anger
  • sadness
  • loss of control of your life
  • worrying that your cancer could come back again after your treatment has finished
  • fear of dying

All of these feelings are very real and frightening. There’s only so much your mind can process at one time, so these feelings can become overwhelming.

But bottling feelings up can become very draining and make living your life very difficult.

Counselling allows you to explore your feelings and express them in a safe place. A counsellor can help you to find a way to make things less difficult to deal with.

What counselling means

When you have counselling you talk to a trained person and explore problems or issues in a safe and supportive environment.

It is very similar to psychotherapy. Whether you choose to see a counsellor or a psychotherapist, it is very important to choose a person you feel comfortable with. It is also helpful to have a little knowledge about the different types of counselling and psychotherapy.

Types of therapy include:

  • Behavioural therapies, that focus on thoughts and behaviours.
  • Psychoanalytical and psychodynamic therapies. These therapies focus on unconscious relationship patterns that started during childhood.
  • Humanistic therapies, that focus on looking at the here and now.

Therapist training

It is important that you see a counsellor or a psychotherapist who has done appropriate training. They need to have accreditation by a recognised organisation.

Some other professionals (for example, GPs, nurses, psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers) may have also been trained in counselling. But not all have. So it is important to check out counselling qualifications and accreditation.

What to expect from your counselling sessions

Usually, you see a counsellor for an hour at a regular time every week.

You may have a weekly session for a set period of time (often 6 or 8 weeks). Or you might have sessions for as long as you and your counsellor agree that you need them.

Your counsellor will try to:

  • listen properly to what you are saying and not interrupt you
  • help you sort out and untangle your feelings and worries
  • give you some insight into how you really think and feel
  • help you express your emotions in your own way
  • help you work out your own solutions to problems
  • help you accept what cannot be changed
  • help and support you while you do all this

There are some general information booklets on talking about cancer that may help you.

If you are a relative or friend

If you are a relative of someone with cancer, you might feel that you need some time to think about yourself and how you can cope. You are bound to have feelings of your own that you don’t want to burden your sick loved one with.

Being able to express your feelings may help you to support your relative more effectively.

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