James Banyard Counsellor Exeter
I would like counselling and I’m tempted to get in touch with you, but before I do, what kinds of things do I need to know about?
These are the things you might find helpful to know. First you might want to know if I am qualified and that I know what I am doing. I’ve been working as counsellor for more than fifteen years. I started seeing people for counselling while I was training at Thames Valley University in London, where I trained on the BACP Accredited Postgraduate Diploma in Counselling. Counsellors nearly always start to see people during their training.
Second, you might want to know what kinds of people I have worked with. Have I ever worked with someone like you? Since I qualified I have been employed in a variety of organisations as a counsellor, working with many different kinds of people. For example I have worked at King’s College Hospital a large training institution in South London. I have also spent time working with drug and alcohol misusers in Reading, Berkshire. MA students at the Royal College of Art in South Kensington and many years working with teenagers and young adults in a number of locations. I work currently with drug addicts and alcoholics for Turning Point in Somerset, where I am the Counselling Co-ordinator.
Third, it may be helpful to know what kinds of people I like to see for counselling in private practice now. I like working with all adults aged over 18 for all sorts of issues. I’m particularly interested in working with men and with anyone going through major life changes, or losses. I am very happy working with people who have never had counselling before, or with people who are very experienced as “clients”.
Fourth, you might want to know what I’m like to talk to as a counsellor. Mostly, this is where you need to find out for yourself but I believe I am straightforward, plain speaking, warm and approachable and will take you and your problems very seriously.
If I come for counselling, will my issues seem silly to you? Sometimes I feel embarrassed by them myself.
Good question. I very firmly believe that anything you tell me will be important to you. Everything you say will hold clues about who you are and how you view the world. It’s very important that I take everything you say seriously and listen carefully to what you’re saying. I wouldn’t be doing my job properly if I thought your problems were silly and not worth talking about.
In counselling, when I’ve told you what’s wrong, will you give me some good advice? That’s what counselling is about. That’s what I‘m paying for, surely?
This is a tricky one to explain. Counsellors don’t give advice. Counselling is different from advice giving. It’s true that some counsellors often overstep this idea, but I am very wary about offering any advice at all to the people I see. There are two good reasons for this. First, I believe people in general don’t like receiving advice about their personal lives. Usually people are happy to receive advice about where to prune their garden shrubs, especially from a gardener or other horticultural expert. But issues about what course of action to take, or how to understand your feelings, don’t really have experts.
The second reason I don’t give advice is that, if there is an expert on your personal issues, that person is going to be you. You need to give yourself advice. It’s my job to help you discover what this advice might be. I wouldn’t presume to know the nature of this advice before we begin.
When we’re in the counselling room, will you make me do anything embarrassing or silly? I don’t think I’d like that.
What really happens when you come to see me is talking. You’ll tell me about yourself and your life and I’ll listen and we’ll work on naming and understanding your experiences. I’m not going to make you beat a pillow or talk to an empty chair. However, I’m very open minded about these sorts of techniques and if you suggest that what you really need to do is get some things off your chest about your ex-spouse and it would help to direct your rage at the empty chair in the room, I would be very supportive and encouraging of such an idea and help you express yourself in a helpful way.
As a counsellor, will you think I am mad? Sometimes I frighten myself with the things I do or think.
I try and keep an open mind about everyone I see and I would never label anyone “mad”. For many people, saying things out loud to another human being can be terribly difficult. Often after people have told me about a “big thing” which has been troubling them, it somehow doesn’t seem so big anymore. That this can then be a source of grief is one of the many paradoxes associated with being a human being. I hear a lot of things in my job as a counsellor and I will probably respond in a useful way to you – this is yet another way in which counselling is different from chatting to your friends.
Choosing a counsellor is a very personal decision at the end of the day. Most counsellors have similar qualifications and ethical standards but what counts most is the kind of relationship you strike up with your therapist. Research has shown that the single most important factor in counselling outcomes is the so-called “therapeutic relationship”, or ,in a nutshell, how honest and open you feel you can be with your counsellor. This isn’t something you can decide solely on the basis of reading about me on a website unfortunately.
James Banyard Counsellor and Supervisor 2015 Counselling and Supervision for Exeter and Devon