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pearls-before-swine-metroI have started an Introduction to Counselling course. I don’t think I want to become a counsellor nor do I think I want to spend the four years training to do so. But I do want to look at my options and consider changes. Also, I do want to work with people more directly in a way that effects positive change so it will be useful either way. It’s a ten week course so it’s no great commitment if it doesn’t go anywhere.

We are a mixed bunch who all started nervously sitting in silence on our chairs as if waiting for permission to turn over the papers and start the exam. Some made an effort to start up a conversation but it didn’t take. However we started introducing ourselves in pairs and then larger groups and then we went round the whole circle. The initial warm up served its purpose and we spoke quite openly about our personal experiences and needs as well as our jobs, careers and thoughts of transformation. Some want to do their current job (or voluntary) better; others were considering a career change. There were several acknowledgements of depression, alcoholism and anxieties.

I noticed that when two members introduced themselves as recovering alcoholics I instinctively withdrew any warm thoughts. That’s about me lumping them all together and being judgemental. But the fact that we all (bar one) spoke honestly and openly about why we were there was very warming and helped encourage us all to be open.

Saying hello to each other took quite a while. There was a bit of housekeeping as it was the first session.Three hours go fast. But we all acknowledged how nervous we felt at the start and how much more positive we felt at the end. This reflects the start with a new counsellor (or indeed most new things) when the fears and anxieties of starting something new can be so overwhelming that you might consider running away instead.

We talked about what counselling is and is not. We all had an intuitive grasp of the rights and wrongs of it but pinning it down to meaningful words proved rather more difficult.

Counselling isn’t telling people what to do or what is wrong with their lives; it’s not analysing all the threads as an academic case study; it’s not being their friends or their parents.

Counselling is guiding someone to make their own choices, to learn about themselves, to find their own solutions. It’s helping them to explore their own issues, understand the relevance of the past to the present and future, to be independent. It requires a level of connection and empathy without being emotionally committed.